In 2010, a veteran-laden Regis Jesuit boys tennis team absolutely dominated its way to the Class 5A state championship.
Loaded from top to bottom, the Raiders won four championships, had six finalists and racked up twice as many points as runner-up Boulder.
That was the last time Cherry Creek failed to win the 5A state championship and the Bruins could have another challenge on their hands from Regis Jesuit at this season’s 5A state tournament Oct. 12-14 at Gates Tennis Center in Denver.
Coach Laura Jones’ team isn’t quite as loaded as the 2010 version, but the Raiders — who won the Region 3 championship and qualified its entire team for state — could make things close if things fall right.
Regis Jesuit had four doubles teams that all played in state championship matches last season and almost all return intact — Will Dennen and Patrick Seby at No. 1, Emilio Gonzalez-Cruz and Evan Nuss at No. 2, Matthew McCarthy and Gabe Caldwell-Nepveux at No. 3 and Matthew Mahoney and James O’Connor at No. 4 — with a return to the finals for all of them quite possible.
Gonzalez-Cruz and Nuss were the lone state champions last season and have only built on that with an undefeated season at the same position that makes them the favorite to repeat. Nuss seeks to make his third state final in as many seasons after he was the runner-up with Garger at No. 3 doubles as a freshman in 2015.
McCarthy and Caldwell-Nepveux lost in a three-set final last season and Mahoney and O’Connor lost in two close ones, both to opponents from Cherry Creek. Flip those results and see what Dennen and Seby — who both have past championship match experience with different partners — can put together in the No. 1 spot and Regis Jesuit would have a good start.
Dennen finished second at No. 1 doubles last season along with now graduated Luca Abbott, the same partner Seby had when he won a state championship at No. 2 doubles in 2015.
The key to any championship run is singles play, however, as there are more points available than in the doubles brackets.
Freshman No. 1 Morgan Schilling — who owns a win over Cherry Creek’s Alex Gordon, who he could see again in the semifinals — junior No. 2 Kosta Garger, a state veteran who won two state matches at No. 1 singles a year ago, and freshman Phillip Albright at No. 3 give the Raiders needed point potential.
Regis Jesuit had five singles wins at last season’s state tournament between Garger (No. 1), Seby (No. 2) and graduated Erich Nuss (No. 3), but none placed. The Raiders haven’t had a top-four performer in singles play since Chanon Penvari placed fourth at No. 2 singles in 2012.
Albright’s No. 3 singles first-round opponent is another Aurora player in Grandview senior Matthew Yan, who will play in the state tournament for a fourth time.
Yan is believed to be the Grandview program’s first-ever four-time state qualifier, as he went three times previously as a doubles player. Yan experienced his first victory last season with a 1-1 showing at No. 1 doubles with now-graduated Adhithya Basker.
A comfort with coming to the net that not all singles players possess gives Yan what he hopes is an advantage to build on at the state tournament.
Senior Ilijah Bailey realized his long-awaited goal of making it to the state tournament and believes he has the tools to make a run.
The big-serving Bailey — down a slot at No. 2 singles from his No. 1 spot the previous three seasons — has only lost twice and could get a chance to avenge a loss in the second round to Broomfield’s Giovanni Intermoseli if he wins in the first round vs. Pine Creek’s Luke Miller.
Sophomore Daniel Cieraszynski and junior Brian Kim make their state debut at No. 3 doubles for coach Jeffrey Ryan’s Wolves.
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
2017 CLASS 5A BOYS STATE TENNIS TOURNAMENT
First-round matchups, 9 a.m. Oct. 12 at Gates Tennis Center — (Full brackets & schedule, here)
No. 1 singles: MORGAN SCHILLING, FR. (REGIS JESUIT) vs. Christian Holmes, jr. (Chatfield)
No. 2 singles: ILIJAH BAILEY, SR. (GRANDVIEW) vs. Luke Miller, jr. (Pine Creek); Nautica Cobb, jr. (Arvada West) vs. KOSTA GARGER, JR. (REGIS JESUIT)
No. 3 singles: MATTHEW YAN, SR. (GRANDVIEW) vs. PHILLIP ALBRIGHT, FR. (REGIS JESUIT)
No. 1 doubles: Charlie Eck/Turner Gordon (Ralston Valley) vs. WILL DENNEN/PATRICK SEBY (REGIS JESUIT)
No. 2 doubles: Max Hubbard/Blake Wilson (Poudre) vs. EVAN NUSS/EMILIO GONZALEZ-CRUZ (REGIS JESUIT)
No. 3 doubles: Kyle Kirkby/Hunter Gormley (Fossil Ridge) vs. MATTHEW MCCARTHY/GABE CALDWELL-NEPVEUX (REGIS JESUIT); DANIEL CIERASZYNSKI/BRIAN KIM (GRANDVIEW) vs. Trevor Fone/Henri Wessels (Mountain Vista)
No. 4 doubles: Jon May/August Pomrenke (Fruita Monument) vs. MATTHEW MAHONEY/JAMES O’CONNOR (REGIS JESUIT)