DENVER | The final day of the Class 5A boys state tennis tournament included a whole lot of mathematical possibilities for the Regis Jesuit boys tennis team.
The Raiders went into Saturday’s championship round of the three-day tournament at Gates Tennis Center trailing Fairview by two points and Cherry Creek by with 17 potential points in front of them, with several different scenarios leading to their first state championship since 2010.
With state championship wins from the No. 1 doubles team of seniors Will Dennen and Patrick Seby and the No. 2 doubles tandem of junior Evan Nuss and sophomore Emilio Gonzalez-Cruz, Regis Jesuit picked up six points, but the Knights collected nine and the Bruins added eight to hold off the Raiders in one of the tightest three-way races in several years.
Fairview had two singles state champions and three third-place doubles teams that contributed to the program’s first-ever state championship and snapped Cherry Creek’s six-year run as state champs.
“Overall, it’s a little disappointing to finish third, but the hunt was so close that I feel like it could have gone either way,” said Regis Jesuit coach Laura Jones, whose team scored as their most points at state (65) since the 83 they put up in winning the 2010 state title.
“I’m happy for Fairview; they were kindof my pick if we couldn’t win,” she added. “I’m so glad they won for the first time in the history of their school.”
Regis Jesuit team had 5A runner’s up at No. 2 singles in junior Kosta Garger and at No. 3 doubles (seniors Matthew McCarthy and Gabe Caldwell-Nepveux) and No. 4 doubles (seniors Matthew Mahoney and James O’Connor), while freshman Phillip Albright placed fourth at No. 3 singles.
With six matches on at the same time — including four where Regis Jesuit went head-to-head with rival Cherry Creek — Gonzalez-Cruz and Nuss were the first to finish with a thorough 6-4, 6-1 victory over the Bruins’ Stone Heyman and Nick Eidler.
Gonzalez-Cruz and Nuss, whose roughest match of the tournament turned out to be their first rounder against Poudre’s Max Hubbard and Blake Wilson when they suffered through some early nerves, finished their season undefeated.
Nuss has now played in a state championship match in all three of his varsity seasons, winning twice the last two seasons after falling in the No. 3 doubles final with Garger in 2015.
The last Regis Jesuit match to finish also resulted in a state championship, this one for Seby and Dennen, who went to the brink of defeat before rallying for a thrilling 2-6, 7-6, 6-4 victory over Cherry Creek’s Sam Angell and Drew Hill.
Dennen played in the final at No. 1 doubles for the second straight season but with a new partner in Seby, who had a previous doubles championship to his credit along with graduated Luca Abbott at No. 2 doubles in 2015.
The duo put a rough first set behind them to win a tiebreaker in the second set and give themselves a chance. With an enlarged crowd watching, Dennen and Seby finally got a key break midway through the final set and never gave up the lead.
Dennen served out the championship, watching the Bruins’ final return sail wide before launching into a big celebration with Seby.
Cherry Creek won its fewest number of championships since that 2010 season when it won just once, but the Bruins did manage to win No. 3 and No. 4 doubles.
Mahoney and O’Connor appeared in the No. 4 doubles state final for the second straight season and got off to a good start by winning the opening set against Tyler Schoen and Devin Brownstein.
The Raiders were a break away from perhaps being able to close it out, but the Bruins got up and held onto the lead to send it to a third set, which was all Cherry Creek in a 6-0 victory.
McCarthy and Caldwell-Nepveux earned their way into the No. 3 doubles final for the second straight season as well and again ended up on the losing end, this time to the Cherry Creek tandem of Zach Smith and Nick Svichar, the state champions at No. 4 doubles in 2016.
The Regis Jesuit duo gave themselves a chance to send the match to a third set with a tiebreaker in the second set, but ended up on the short end. The match ended on an agonizing shot that landed just inside the baseline.
The Raiders hadn’t had a singles player place at the state tournament since Chanon Penvari in 2012, but that two this season in Garger and Albright.
Garger slugged it out with Fairview’s Ethan Schacht — who was fourth last season at No. 2 singles — for two tight sets before the Knights’ standout prevailed 6-3, 7-5.
The two met previously at the Cherry Creek Invitational, where Garger had to withdraw in the third set due to cramps.
In his first state tournament appearance, Albright lost to Cherry Creek’s George Cavo in the semifinals, but got another win in the playback bracket Friday to make it into the No. 3 singles third-place match, where he faced Boulder’s Henry Hawk.
With a strong first set, Albright got up on Hawk before the Panthers’ senior got on track to take the final two sets.
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or email@example.com. Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
2017 CLASS 5A BOYS STATE TENNIS TOURNAMENT
Team scores: 1. Fairview 73 points; 2. Cherry Creek 68; 3. REGIS JESUIT 65; T4. Broomfield 22; T4. Boulder 22; 6. Chatfield 18; 7. Ponderosa 14; 8. Denver East 10; 9. Mountain Range 9; 10. Fossil Ridge 6; T11. Grand Junction 4; T11. Mountain Vista 4; T13. Arapahoe 3; T13. Rocky Mountain 3; T15. Rock Canyon 2; T15. Heritage 2; T17. GRANDVIEW 1; T17. Ralston Valley 1; T17. Fruita Monument 1; T17. Poudre 1
No. 1 singles — Christian Holmes (Chatfield) def. Tom Melville (Fairview), 4-6, 6-3, 6-1; No. 2 singles — Ethan Schacht (Fairview) def. KOSTA GARGER (REGIS JESUIT), 6-3, 7-5; No. 3 singles — Andy Wu (Fairview) def. George Cavo (Cherry Creek), 6-0, 6-2; No. 1 doubles — WILL DENNEN/PATRICK SEBY (REGIS JESUIT) def. Sam Angell/Drew Hill (Cherry Creek), 2-6, 7-6, 6-4; No. 2 doubles — EMILIO GONZALEZ-CRUZ/EVAN NUSS (REGIS JESUIT) def. Stone Heyman/Nick Eidler (Cherry Creek), 6-4, 6-1; No. 3 doubles — Zach Smith/Nick Svichar (Cherry Creek) def. MATTHEW MCCARTHY/GABE CALDWELL-NEPVEUX (REGIS JESUIT), 6-1, 7-6 (3);
No. 4 doubles — Tyler Schoen/Devin Brownstein (Cherry Creek) def. MATTHEW MAHONEY/JAMES O’CONNOR (REGIS JESUIT), 6-7, 6-4, 6-0
No. 1 singles — Ryan Neale (Ponderosa) def. Javier Valenzuela (Mountain Range), 6-2, 6-1; No. 2 singles — Ben Murray (Cherry Creek) def. Giovanni Intermesoli (Broomfield), 6-3, 6-0; No. 3 singles — Henry Hawk (Boulder) def. PHILLIP ALBRIGHT (REGIS JESUIT), 4-6, 6-1, 6-3; No. 1 doubles — Beck Chrisbens/Luke Silverman (Fairview) def. Will Enterline/Hans Callanan (Boulder), 4-6, 6-1, 6-3;
No. 2 doubles — Cameron Lupo/Charlie Vanderberg (Broomfield) def. Aaron Nguyen/Hall Humphrey (Fairview), 7-6, 6-2; No. 3 doubles — Ryan Grayson/Kian Grimison (Fairview) def. Jack Abbey/Jacob Frosch (Denver East), 6-3, 6-3; No. 4 doubles — Reid Shaffer/Adam Heilbronner (Fairview) def. Nathaniel Lim/Calvin Caldwell (Boulder), 6-0, 6-4