Yehna Bendul and Rachel Cullop have crossed some pretty big things off their checklist this season and the junior duo isn’t finished yet.
Grandview’s No. 3 doubles team came away from the Class 5A Region 1 girls tennis tournament May 4-5 with a couple of things near the top of their list crossed out — make it to the 5A state tournament for the first time and beat a team from Cherry Creek.
While the state goal definitely seemed reachable at the beginning of the season, beating the Bruins is a whole different animal as anybody around the state knows. Bendul and Cullop took a set from Cherry Creek during the regular season in a three-set loss, but at regionals they got both of them in a 6-4, 6-3 victory that marked their best match of the season.
“We really wanted to beat Creek; I guess we can check that off the list,” Bendul said.
The Grandview duo already knew it was going to the May 12-14 5A state tournament at the Gates Tennis Center in Denver — a big accomplishment for Bendul in her first season on varsity and Cullop, a returning varsity player — so the regional championship match took off all the pressure.
The relaxed Grandview duo won the only championship for Aurora players in regional play.
The Wolves’ No. 4 doubles team of senior Racheal Rupprecht and freshman Eleana Welsh also had a state trip assured and with the same mindset went out and split sets with Cherry Creek in their regional title match. The Bruins eventually prevailed in three, but were pushed by the tandem of Rupprecht, a volleyball player whose athleticism is a major asset and Welsh, who comes from a tennis family.
Grandview’s No. 2 doubles team of senior Olivia Brohl and junior Ila Farhang made it to the state tournament for a second straight season, despite an ugly result against Cherry Creek in the semifinals, giving coach Jeff Ryan a large contingent at the state tournament.
All of Grandview’s doubles teams — including the No. 1 team of seniors Anna Bratlee and Marisa Welsh, who finished fourth at regionals — prepared each other for playing well come regionals and the state tournament.
“I can just turn them loose practice, 1 plays 4, 2 plays 3 and they all get better,” Ryan said.
Indeed Farhang said the seven-point tiebreakers the doubles teams play in practice every day helped them prevail in their heartstopping three-set win over Broomfield in a playback with a state trip on the line.
The duo vows to be more focused in this trip to the state tournament than they were last season when they lost in the opening round to a team from Mountain Vista when they played No. 3 doubles.
Aurora will be represented in all seven positions at the state tournament, as Regis Jesuit handles the singles positions (sophomore Mikki Erickson at No. 1, sophomore Skyler Mydler at No. 2 and senior Clare Quinn at No. 3 qualified out of Region 2 at Fairview), while Eaglecrest junior Maya Johnson and sophomore Kaitlin Marler took the long route in Region 4 to make it at No. 1 doubles.
Johnson and Marler actually lost in the first round in the Raptors’ regional in Fort Collins, but rebounded in the playback bracket to beat Hinkley and Castle View (in the third-place match), then dispatched the team from Fossil Ridge in a playback to make it to state for the first time.
Regis Jesuit’s intriguing No. 3 doubles team of steady senior Mackenzy Pedrie (a returning state qualifier) and ultra-athletic freshman Francesca Belibi rounds out the state contingent for Aurora schools.
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
AURORA 2016 CLASS 5A FIRST ROUND GIRLS STATE TENNIS MATCHES
9 a.m., May 12 at Gates Tennis Center
No. 1 singles — MIKKI ERICKSON, SOPH. (REGIS JESUIT) vs. Gloria Son, sr. (Cherry Creek); No. 2 singles — SKYLER MYDLER, SOPH. (REGIS JESUIT) vs. Jennifer Phan, jr. (Mountain Range); No. 3 singles — CLARE QUINN, SR. (REGIS JESUIT) vs. Sayuri Garud, fr. (Cherry Creek); NO. 1 doubles — MAYA JOHNSON/KAITLIN MARLER (EAGLECREST) vs. Kat Geisler/Rachel Driscoll (Grand Junction Central); No. 2 doubles — OLIVIA BROHL/ILA FARHANG (GRANDVIEW) vs. Mikayla Dudek/Sara Mantz (Monarch); No. 3 doubles — FRANCESCA BELIBI/MACKENZY PEDRIE (REGIS JESUIT) vs. Erinn Hogan/Lindsey Noble (Fossil Ridge); Isa Kohls/Becca Halberg (Fruita Monument) vs. YEHNA BENDUL/RACHEL CULLOP (GRANDVIEW); No. 4 doubles — RACHEAL RUPPRECHT/ELEANA WELSH (GRANDVIEW) vs. Clare Lupo/Denali Pinto (Fairview)