DENVER — Valerie Negin had a trio of three-set matches at the state tournament. She ultimately emerged victorious in each, and is now the Class 5A girls tennis champion at No. 1 singles.
The Smoky Hill sophomore, making her first appearance at the state tournament, won the championship with a great 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 victory over Fairview senior Sophie Pearson.
"It hasn't even sunk in yet," Negin said of winning the championship. "Sophie played so great, and I'm honored for this opportunity. It's crazy."
She also had three-set wins in the quarterfinals and semifinals.
"I just kind of had to suck it up and play, because it's the final," Negin said. "I really had no option. It's either I lose and don't fight, or I fight and win."
After losing the second set, 6-4, Negin gave herself a pep talk: "I just said, 'Valerie, this is it right here. Whatever happens happens, but blood, sweat and tears on the court.'"
Negin is Smoky Hill's second No. 1 singles champion, and the first since Patti Urban won three in a row from 1985-87.
"That's crazy," Negin said. "I don't even know how to feel about that."
Cherry Creek won its third-straight team championship, and 22nd of the past 24 seasons. The Bruins amassed 74 total points, as they won four individual championships. Chatfield finished as runner up, with 43 points.
"I think a lot of it has to do with our community, and how involved our tennis community is in that area," Cherry Creek coach Chris Jacob said of her team's sustained success. "We have Greenwood and both of the Colorado Athletic Clubs, we have Inverness, and Monaco, and then Lifetime, too.
"The fact that these girls play year-round makes a huge difference for us," she added. "They're ready when they come in in February. We're lucky that we have such an involved tennis community."
Winning titles for the Bruins: Sayuri Garud (No. 3 singles), Halley Mackiernan and Anna Fusaris (No. 1 doubles), Kaki Cantor and Miranda Kawula (No. 2 doubles), and Ella Barclay and Dahlia Rappaport (No. 4 doubles).
Cherry Creek coach Chris Jacob called Garud's win at No. 3 singles "a true highlight for us," saying it was a great way for her to cap her career after tough losses in the state finals as a freshman and sophomore, and then taking a year off as a junior.
"To have her come back and have the season that she's had was tremendous," Jacob said.
The Bruins also placed second at No. 2 doubles, and third at No. 1 singles.
Jacob nodded to her team's depth as key in winning the championship.
"Doubles is so fun to work with, and it's going to be where most of these players play when they get older in league tennis, so it's fun to kind of be an introduction to that," Jacob said. "We spend a lot of time on it. In our challenge season, there's a lot doubles played, and that gets them ready. Then we spend a lot of time on it in practice, too. We know how important it is."
Also winning individual championships were Fairview's Alexis Bernthal (No. 2 singles), and Chatfield's Wesley Sternberg and Kaitlyn Speer (No. 3 doubles).
Fossil Ridge finished third as a team, Fairview was fourth, and Fort Collins placed fifth.