Making a statement
GJ's Filutze wins regional title; four valley doubles teams also qualify for state tourney
As she began to talk about it, Sierra Filutze began to realize how much her accomplishment meant to her.
Qualifying for the girls tennis state tournament means “a lot,” the Grand Junction High School senior said. Then, her eyes got watery as she added, “It just kind of hit me.”
After a back-and-forth first two sets filled with long volleys and games reaching deuce against Cherokee Trail’s Sydney Reese, Filutze reduced the suspense in the third set. She emerged with a 5-7, 7-6 (7-1), 6-1 victory to claim the Class 5A Region 6 championship at No. 3 singles and a berth in next week’s state meet in Denver.
Filutze was the lone Grand Valley player in the eight-team region to win a championship Friday, but the top two place-winners advance to state, and valley schools claimed second in all four doubles flights. Three of those went to Fruita Monument teams, giving the Wildcats the most state entrants of the valley schools.
After dropping her first set against Reese, Filutze regrouped.
“I was frustrated, but I had a feeling, I just knew I could pull it through,” she said.
She was teetering on the edge of dropping the second set, though, as it went to a tiebreaker. There, of all things, she relaxed and won 7-1, forcing a third set.
“There’s a lot of pressure,” she said. “Usually I’d be super nervous, but I wasn’t. I kind of forgot it was the finals and played it a point at a time.”
That carried over to the third set, and Filutze raced to a 3-0 lead. After Reese broke Filutze’s serve to make it 3-1, Filutze closed out the match, twice breaking Reese’s serve.
“I got my confidence, and I wanted to win it,” Filutze said. “My confidence was there. I think it took two matches to get there.”
Filutze didn’t enter the season thinking about a state berth. She just wanted to earn the right to play singles in her final season after playing doubles during her junior year, her first year on the Tigers’ varsity.
“I wanted to play singles so bad,” she said. “I didn’t expect this (a state berth) would happen, but I’m glad it all paid off, the hard work.”
Tigers return to form
Grand Junction nearly added a regional championship at No. 1 doubles, as senior Natalie Sufka and junior Morgen Mantlo led 4-3 in the third set against Erica Dodson and Anna Finch of Regis Jesuit. The Regis duo, however, won the next three games and sent the Tigers into a match for second-place against Katie Dugan and Ellie Goodspeed of Fort Collins.
“I feel like I choked a little bit,” said Sufka, who qualified for state at No. 3 doubles with a different partner last year.
She and Mantlo said they hadn’t faced a team all season in which both players stayed back on the baseline, and it threw them off when Regis did it.
“I feel like we got sucked into playing their game instead of the game we play,” Sufka said.
Mantlo added, “We stayed back instead of going to the net. We weren’t aggressive like we usually are.”
They resorted to familiar ways in the second-place match and rolled to a 6-3, 6-0 win and the state berth.
Wildcats Respond to pressure
Fruita Monument had teams in the finals at Nos. 2, 3 and 4 doubles, and each lost, including in three sets at Nos. 2 and 4. Then, each had to go the playback route for second place, where each team won, including two three-set victories.
“It seems like regionals is that way every year,” Wildcats coach Clint Davis said. “It comes down to who can finish under pressure, and fortunately our twos, threes and fours did it.”
Fruita duo makes it 4-0
Fruita’s state procession began with senior Taylor Poudrier and junior Amanda Charles at No. 2 doubles.
While they were disappointed they lost in the final after winning the first set 6-1 — they dropped the next two 6-4, 6-4 — Poudrier and Charles felt confident going into the second-place match. There, they played the Grand Junction duo of McKenna Brooks and Sarah Megan Erb, whom Poudrier and Charles had beaten in each of their three previous meetings.
Friday, the Wildcat tandem triumphed 6-0, 6-2.
“We knew this was to get to state, and we knew we had beaten them three times,” Poudrier said of the playback for second.
“We just stepped up our game and got it done,” Charles added.
Wild finish for Wildcat pair
Fruita’s Sara Cesark and Lindsay Dempsey also had to turn back a Grand Junction team, Aspen Coleman and Kiana Ziola, to claim second place at No. 3 doubles, and the Tigers made them earn it, 6-4, 6-7 (4-7), 6-4.
Even after Cesark and Dempsey took a 5-0 lead in the third set, Coleman and Ziola made them sweat out the victory, winning the next four games before the Wildcat duo said it had seen enough.
Making things more interesting than they need to be, “Apparently we like to do that,” Cesark said.
Cesark and Dempsey found themselves needing to win a playback for second after a disappointing showing in the final, which they dropped 6-4, 6-0.
“We just lost our head and weren’t in it,” Dempsey said of the title match, adding they knew they weren’t done if they lost, and perhaps that lessened their focus.
That wasn’t the case in the final, though, as Cesark said, “Here, it was a make-or-break situation.”
Fruita seniors get it done
The final match to conclude Friday afternoon, No. 4 doubles, gave Fruita one more state entrant: a pair of seniors, Kelsi Barnett and Kayla Lyon, making their first trip to state in their final chance to do it.
They rebounded from a 6-1 loss in the first set of the final to make a good run at the title, but after winning the second set 6-4, the team from Fort Collins took the third 6-4. Barnett and Lyon then lost their first set in the second-place match 6-1.
“We just had to dig deep,” Barnett said. “There was a lot to lose, so it motivated us. ... This is the last shot we’ve got (to go to state).”
The Wildcats closed out the match 6-3, 6-1.
Asked if she expected to go to state this year, Lyon said, “No,” at the same time that Barnett said, “Yes.”
Lyon added, “I didn’t know. It was my first year on varsity. I’m just happy we made it.”
Team title to Tigers
Regis Jesuit won titles in three flights and finished second in another, but it wasn’t enough to net the Raiders the team title.
That went to Grand Junction, which showed the difference depth makes and the importance of winning playback matches.
The Tigers won one flight, took second in another, finished third in three flights, and placed fourth in two. That was good for 51 points, three more than Regis, which lost first-round matches and didn’t get playbacks in three flights, meaning it got no points in three spots.
“Everything matters,” Tigers coach Carol Elliott said. “We put a lot of emphasis, always have and always will, on fighting for every point we can get. ... We put a lot of emphasis on doing it for the team.”
State return denied
Central’s best shot at sending a player to state was senior Aimee Basinski, a two-time regional champion at No. 1 singles, but Friday wasn’t her day.
The powerful ground strokes of Shelby Cerkovnik gave the Regis Jesuit senior a 6-4, 6-3 win over Basinski in the final. Then, the well-rounded game of Mountain Range senior Katie Kirby prevailed 6-2, 6-1 in the match for second place.
Central coach Kathy Elliott called Basinski’s opponents “exceptional players” and said both have a chance to finish in the top four at state.