Fruita ends dream
'Cats lose first two matches, rally past Central
Wins in the first two completed matches Thursday had Central High School daring to dream of upsetting Fruita Monument.
“Hey guys, cheer like nuts, because we could pull this out,” Warriors girls tennis coach Kathy Elliott told Aimee Basinski and Keira Trujillo, the victors at Nos. 1 and 2 singles, respectively.
And for Basinski, a senior, Elliott added, “We could beat them for the first time since you’ve been here, Aimee.”
But the two matches where Central had the best chance to make that elusive team victory happen were hard-fought battles that went Fruita’s way: No. 3 singles and No. 1 doubles. And with the Wildcats taking the remaining doubles matches they earned a 5-2 victory in Southwestern League play at Central.
“We’re always close, and we don’t have half the tennis players they do,” Elliott said. “This is about as close as we’ve been.”
This is how close it was: Fruita’s McKenna Griffiths and Shannon Hautzinger had to bounce back from a beatdown in the second set to win a 10-point-tiebreaker third set to triumph 6-3, 1-6, (10-6) at No. 1 doubles; and Bronte Hayward got all she could handle from Abby Bridgett before pocketing a 7-6, 6-4 win.
Hayward already owned three wins over Bridgett this season, but they weren’t the spirited battle Bridgett gave her Thursday. Bridgett broke Hayward’s serve to go up 4-2 in the second set, but that’s when Hayward showed her resolve. She broke Bridgett’s serve, thanks to two double faults, then displayed some sharp serving in Games 4 and 6 en route to the 6-4 comeback win.
“I couldn’t get my stroke in today,” Hayward said, “so I had to be patient, not get frustrated. ... I told myself I’m not gonna let her get to five games. I kind of told myself I’m going to win.”
Hayward’s response was what Fruita coach Clint Davis expected.
“Bronte’s always clutch,” he said. “She loves a close match. She thrives under pressure.”
Griffiths and Hautzinger saw their match against Central’s Hannah Keeling and Bryce Lambert slipping away, in part because, “I thought we got a little too cocky,” Griffiths said.
After losing the second set 6-1, they fell behind 5-2 in the tiebreaker set. And they were feeling the pressure, Hautzinger said, but that wasn’t a bad thing, as she added, “I don’t like it, but we usually play better.”
Griffiths said the duo at that point stopped making errors and regained the focus they had in the first set.
The win gave Griffiths and Hautzinger a 2-1 edge over Keeling and Lambert this year and probably something more valuable, Davis said.
“They’re a talented team that just needs confidence,” he said, “so a win over team they lost to before, that’s got to give them confidence.
“They’ve played a lot of close matches this year, so they have to know they can come through in the clutch like that. And that’s good to know going into regionals, because it’s all about preparing for regionals now, where every match will be a battle.”