Aurora’s contingent for the Class 5A girls state tennis tournament is large, but largely inexperienced.
When the dust had cleared on regional play, seven singles players and four doubles teams from three city programs earned spots in the May 12-14 tournament at Gates Tennis Center, but hardly any of them had been there before.
Regis Jesuit will have all three of its singles players and all four doubles teams in the draw, but of those 11 players, only three were there last year for coach Laura Jones’ Raiders, the champions of the Region 8 tournament at City Park.
“We have a lot of young players and players new to varsity, so this is better than maybe we had dreamed of being able to send all lines to state,” Jones said. “We’re going to go and soak it all in and our first goal is to make it through those first round matches.”
The Raiders feature a singles contingent of juniors Madison Wei (No. 1) and Quinn Binaxas (No. 2) as well as senior Peyton Tinsley (No. 3), all of which earned regional championships and the seeding advantage that comes with it at the state tournament.
Of that group, Wei has the only state experience as she made it last season at No. 3 singles and lost her only match. She moved up the singles ladder this season and navigated a tough season of playing in the top spot in the Continental League and made state with a regional championship victory over Denver East’s Addie Uhl.
Binaxas topped Denver East’s Isabella Massena in straight sets to earn her first trip to the state tournament as did Tinsley, who has a matchup with Legend’s Taylor Eddy — who she defeated in Continental League play — in the opening round.
Two of Regis Jesuit’s doubles duos also won regional titles in the No. 1 tandem of sophomores Mary Clare Watts and Lucy Filippini along with the No. 3 team of senior Anna Neff and sophomore Elise Holt.
Watts and Filippini — who got past Rocky Mountain in three sets to win the regional — are the other two Regis Jesuit qualifiers with previous state experience, as they were there with the Nos. 3 and 4 doubles teams last season. Watts and her graduated partner won their first round match to account for one of the two points accumulated by the Raiders. Filippini lost her first round match at No. 4 doubles.
Neff and Holt outlasted a team from Denver East in two long sets to win the regional championship.
The No. 2 team of sophomore Brenna Radebaugh and freshman Ebba Svard and the No. 4 team of senior Elise Duffield and freshman Cait Carolan go into state as runners-up for Regis Jesuit.
Grandview’s contingent is made up of No. 1 singles player Shriya Ginjupalli, a freshman, as well as senior Halia Pena at No. 2 singles.
Pena played in the No. 1 spot last season — a major challenge in the Centennial League — and came up short of qualifying for state. Moved down one spot in the lineup for coach Jeff Ryan’s Wolves, Pena reinvented her playing style by moving away from the slug-it-out from the baseline style of most high singles players and coming forward to the net often.
The change has worked and she’s looking forward to her first state tournament, as is Ginjupalli, whose older sister played for the Wolves and qualified for state at No. 2 doubles as a senior in 2019.
Shriya Ginjupalli enjoyed the challenge of playing in the spot in a league that includes powerhouse Cherry Creek and other top singles players and believes her game is tuned up for her to perform well at state.
One Aurora player with state experience that is unable to play is Cherokee Trail No. 1 singles player Aarzoo Aggarwal, who had to forfeit the spot she earned as runner-up at her region.
Aggarwal, who played at state last year at No. 2 singles — losing her only match — had to withdraw once she found out that two of her International Bacchalaureate tests were scheduled for May 12, the opening day of the tournament.
That leaves the state contingent of sophomore No. 2 singles player Sierra Martin for coach Paul Whipple’s Cougars, who also had two singles players in the state tournament last year. Martin handled regionals well and is eager for a chance to compete in state.
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports