Central's Keeling, two Fruita doubles teams qualify for state tennis tournament
Making it to the Class 5A state tennis tournament was never really on Hannah Keeling’s mind.
The Central High School senior now has to think about it, because she’s going.
The Warriors’ No. 3 singles player won the Class 5A Region 6 title 6-4, 7-5 over Jennifer Phan of Mountain Range on Friday at the Elliott Tennis Center.
Keeling, along with Fruita Monument’s No. 3 and 4 doubles teams, earned trips to state.
The biggest surprise of the tournament is that no Grand Junction player qualified for the state tournament, even though the Tigers finished third in the team standings.
For Keeling, who will be making her first trip to state, her victory came after the longest point of the match with both players being conservative, not wanting to make a mistake. Then Phan hit the final shot long and Keeling had the win.
“I honestly didn’t think I had any chance (at state) but then the season kept going,” she said, adding that her game just kept improving.
As she emerged from the court, she got a hug from her mom and high-fives, fist bumps and hugs from teammates and coaches.
Keeling smiled and soaked it in.
“It is so cool, it’s so nice to have their support,” she said about her teammates and her mom.
“It’s great, she’s been to every one of my matches, she’s my biggest supporter,” she said.
Relying on a powerful first serve, Keeling won the first set by taking the final two games.
“The first set was pretty solid but I knew she was going to come back even stronger,” she said.
Without a consistent first serve in the second set, Keeling relied on consistent baseline play, and Keeling and Phan battled with long rallies.
“The second set, no one really had the momentum, it was just back and forth, back and forth,” she said.
Keeling said every stroke of that final point was packed with pressure and each player was patient.
“It was like, who will hit it out first,” Keeling said with a smile.
“The pressure was on, no doubt about it,” she added. “It was a long point, probably one of the best points I’ve ever had in my entire life.”
As the back-and-forth match progressed, Keeling admitted she was worried about a possible third set.
“I don’t think they work too well and I don’t do that well with them, so I try to avoid them at all costs,” she said, smiling.
Fruita Monument senior Katie Vidmar and freshman Tayvia Voytilla won at No. 3 doubles and juniors Amy Espinoza and Alyssa Bohrer claimed the title at No. 4 doubles.
Vidmar and Voytilla won their match 6-4, 7-6 (10-8), and Espinoza and Bohrer won 7-6 (7-4), 6-3.
“It was very nerve-racking, my legs were shaking,” Vidmar said about their 10-8 win in the second-set tiebreaker. “But Tayvia and I have been in so many close matches this year.”
Voytilla said the two just clicked as a team this season.
“From the first day we played with each other, we just get each other,” she said.
Espinoza and Bohrer joined as the No. 4 doubles team later in the season, but a win in a Denver tournament gave them confidence coming into regionals.
But they were both genuinely surprised with their title.
“Second would have been good enough for me but winning feels real good,” Bohrer said with a laugh.
“We had our struggles (in the tournament) and had a lot of close matches but we pulled through in the end,” Espinoza said.
For Grand Junction, it was a disappointing day with plenty of close matches and three losses in the playback round.
Carolena Campos turned in a gallant effort at No. 1 singles before falling in three sets in the playback match to Haley Chirico of Regis, 6-2, 4-6, 6-1.
It made for a long day for Campos, who lost to Kristen Kirby of Mountain Range 6-3, 6-2 in the finals, which dropped her into the playback round.
For the Grand Junction sophomore, it was an emotional day, and she said the three-set loss was one of the toughest of her young career.
“It was pretty tiring but that’s part of playing, you have to be ready,” she said. “There are no excuses.”
Trying to hold back her tears, she said she will try to learn from coming up short.
“I’ll take the experience and try harder,” she said.
Morgen Mantlo lost to Ashley Zaeski of Mountain Range in the No. 2 singles final, then lost 6-4, 6-4 in her playback match.
Mariah Prinster and Jessi Smith won their first set in the finals at No. 2 doubles before losing to Littleton’s Madeline Hicks and Margo Kilroy 4-6, 6-3, 6-1.
The Grand Junction pair then lost their playback match 6-1, 6-2 to Kathleen Quinn and Lexi Christopher of Regis.
Mountain Range won the team title with 53 points, followed by Littleton with 42 and Grand Junction with 35.
The Class 5A state tournament starts Thursday at the Gates Tennis Center in Denver.