DENVER — It was a day of firsts — and seconds — for Morgan Schilling and the Regis Jesuit boys tennis team.
Regis Jesuit won its second-straight Colorado 5A boys tennis state tournament Saturday at Gates Tennis Center, beating Cherry Creek by a team score of 83-70.
Schilling led the charge for the Raiders by winning his first state championship in No. 1 singles. The RJ junior, who lost in the 2018 No. 1 singles final, prevailed over Luke Silverman of Fairview, 6-4, 6-3. (Find photos of the awards ceremony here.)
Last year’s disappointment certainly fueled Schilling this season.
“Last year I shook his hand, went to my bench and started crying,” he admitted of his 2018 loss to Christian Holmes of Chatfield. “I couldn’t help myself. I was devastated.
“In the months after, I thought about it everyday,” Schilling added. “Honestly, I didn’t really want to play tennis like a month after the final. I was just so down on myself. [Today] is a lot different feeling than last year. I’m smiling now.”
The Raiders are the first repeat champions since Cherry Creek won six titles in a row between 2011 and 2016. Overall, Regis Jesuit has won five 5A boys team championships (1991, 2000, 2010, 2018 and 2019).
Regis Jesuit, which entered the day with a slim 69-64 advantage in the team scores, benefitted from wins in three of four head-to-head championship matches against the Bruins.
In No. 2 singles, RJ’s Andy Schuiling beat Creek’s Matthew Batmunkh, 6-4, 6-2, while in No. 3 singles, RJ’s Cameron Kruep defeated Nick Svichar, 6-3, 6-2.
In No. 4 doubles, Alexander Samuelson and Nathan Tolva of Regis Jesuit edged Nathan Henden and Ben Zhang of Cherry Creek, 6-2, 7-6 (4).
“It’s the first time for us, so it’s very exciting,” said Regis Jesuit head coach Laura Jones of her team’s repeat success. “We knew what to expect and we knew that we could win. It was just a matter of going out there and taking care of business.
“I am super proud of the way the kids came to play today,” she added. “I look at Cameron and Andy, and those kids are representing us for the first time. To get out there and just carry us on their shoulders, really … they did such a good job. I’m so proud of them.
“I feel so blessed to have the opportunity, to not only work at Regis Jesuit, but to be involved with this tennis team … such good kids, such great families. I am just so proud of them and so happy for them.”
Silverman, a junior, won the first two games of the day before Schilling regrouped and finished with a first-set win.
“I had a tough warmup today,” Schilling said. “I felt really tight and nervous. … I served poorly and double-faulted in that first game. And he played lights out in the first couple of games. He just went for it. I kinda got overwhelmed a little bit. Then I just settled down, caught my breath and started playing [better].”
Schilling won the first three games of the second set before Silverman roared back to tie it up, 3-3.
“I knew I had to fight,” said Silverman, who advanced to the quarterfinals last year as a sophomore. “I just had to get my feet moving again and get myself back in the match.”
But Schilling never lost his composure. He held serve to go up 4-3, then broke Silverman’s serve to gain a 5-3 advantage. Schilling then finished off the match with an ace, a yell and a smile.
“I was really nervous,” he said of match point. “My heart started beating really fast. I was up 40-love, so I felt comfortable. I just needed one big serve. I got it, and luckily he put it a little bit far.
“I’ll remember that point forever,” Schilling said. “It was awesome.”
It was much the same feeling for Jones.
“Almost 365 days ago … he lost a super tough, emotional match to Christian Holmes right out here on this same court,” she recalled. “And it became his goal, that minute that he walked off that court, to come back out here and walk away with that state championship.
“He works super hard, on both his game and his mental game,” Jones continued. “I’m just so proud of where he is and how dominant he was throughout, not just the tournament, but the entire year. He just went out there and took care of business. What a great kid. I am so blessed to coach [him].”
The day’s bright spot for Cherry Creek came in No. 1 doubles, as Aram Izmirian and Kiril Kostadinov defeated Regis Jesuit’s Grigor Karakelyan and Conor Kaczmarczyk in straight-sets, 6-4, 6-2.
In No. 2 doubles, Nick Solimene and Truman Osburn of Valor Christian defeated Mason Heimel and Will Franks of Denver East, 6-2, 6-1.
In No. 3 doubles, Cherry Creek’s Holst brothers (William and Blake) outlasted Maxim Kokoshinksy and Jake Wicks of Fairview.
Valor Christian finished in third place in the team competition with 46 points, followed by Fairview (29) and Denver East (27).