DENVER | From a first round loss all the way to taking third place, the Class 5A girls state tennis tournament was an adventure from start to finish for Regis Jesuit’s Mackenzy Pedrie and Francesca Belibi.
The Raiders’ No. 3 doubles team suffered an opening round loss on Thursday at the Gates Tennis Center, but reeled off three straight victories in the playback bracket — many in dramatic fashion — to become the first state placers from an Aurora school since the 2013 season.
A day after they rallied from sure defeat in the consolation semifinals, Pedrie and Belibi capped their tournament with a 7-6 (8), 4-6, 6-3 win over Heritage’s Olivia Woods and Libby Stroup in Saturday’s third-place match.
Boosted by the pair’s performance, coach Kollman Gearhart’s Raiders finished with six points to take 11th in the team standings, while Grandview ended up in a tie for 13th with 3 points, the most for the Wolves at the state tournament since 2006.
At the top, Fairview ended Cherry Creek’s quest for a 20th consecutive state title with a three-point victory that came all the way down to the result of the No. 3 singles match won by the Knights.
Regis Jesuit’s last state tournament placers — and those from any Aurora program — came in 2013 when No. 2 singles player Haley Chirico and the No. 2 doubles team of Catherine Nemechek and Jessica Butler each took third place and it didn’t look good for the Raiders to match those results after Pedrie and Belibi lost in the first round, as did singles players Mikki Erickson (No. 1), Skyler Mydler (No. 2) and Clare Quinn (No. 3).
But Erinn Hogan and Lindsey Noble of Fossil Ridge, who beat Pedrie and Belibi 6-3, 6-1 in the opening round, did the Raiders a favor by making it to the state championship match to bring them into the playback bracket.
Quinn also got a playback chance and won her first match at No. 3 singles, but lost in the next round.
Belibi and Pedrie took their chance and ran with it, downing a team from ThunderRidge, surviving a harrowing third set to beat Chatfield on Friday and then taking care of Heritage in a match that was much closer than their 6-2, 6-1 victory over the Eagles’ duo in a Continental League dual match April 14.
Pedrie finished her varsity career with her first place in two trips to state, while Belibi — a member of Regis Jesuit’s girls basketball team — got off to a fine start to her prep tennis career.
The Grandview No. 4 doubles teams of senior Racheal Rupprecht and freshman Eleana Welsh also got a playback opportunity and battled before falling in three sets to Rock Canyon’s Claire Steffe and Sara Stavaski.
Rupprecht and Welsh’s two state losses came to the eventual state champions in Fairview’s Clare Lupo and Denali Pinto and Steffe and Stavaski, who took third.
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
2016 CLASS 5A GIRLS STATE TENNIS TOURNAMENT
May 14 at Gates Tennis Center
Team scores: 1. Fairview 69 points; 2. Cherry Creek 66; 3. Mountain Vista 41; 4. Poudre 29; 5. Heritage 19; T6. Fossil Ridge 18; T6. Ponderosa 18; 8. Denver East 15; 9. Chatfield 13; 10. Arapahoe 12; 11. REGIS JESUIT 6; 12. Rock Canyon 5; T13. GRANDVIEW 3; T13. Ralston Valley 3; T13. Mountain Range 13; T16. Grand Junction 2; T16. Legend 2; T16. Lakewood 2; T19. Fruita Monument 1; T19. G.J. Central 1; T19. ThunderRidge 0
Aurora third-place match — No. 3 doubles: Francesca Belibi/Mackenzy Pedrie (Regis Jesuit) def. Olivia Woods/Libby Stroup (Heritage), 7-6 (8), 4-6, 6-3