Spring Sports All-City 2016: Dynamic doubles teams lend power All-City Girls Tennis Team

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on Wednesday June 29, 2016 at Utah Park. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel
Members of the 2016 Aurora Sentinel All-City Girls Tennis Team, from left, Grandview’s Ila Farhang, Olivia Brohl and Racheal Rupprecht and Regis Jesuit’s Francesca Belibi and Mackenzy Pedrie pose on June 29 at Utah Park. (Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel)

Doubles teams both new and familiar had significant success during the 2016 prep girls tennis season and they rose to the occasion at the end.

Duos from three different schools appear on the 2016 Aurora Sentinel All-City Girls Tennis Team, which is based on results from the Class 5A state tournament.

The Regis Jesuit No. 3 doubles team of senior Mackenzy Pedrie and freshman Francesca Belibi lead the way as the only players from Aurora schools earn top-four places — they captured third — and they are joined by teammates in all three of the All-City singles positions in sophomores Mikki Erickson (No. 1) and Skyler Mydler (No. 2) and senior Clare Quinn (No. 3). No other Aurora program had a singles player make it through regionals.

Eaglecrest's Maya Johnson, a member of the 2016 Aurora Sentinel All-City Girls Tennis Team, poses on June 29. Johnson and No. 1 doubles teammate Kaitlin Marler earned their first trip to the Class 5A girls state tennis tournament. (Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel)
Eaglecrest’s Maya Johnson, a member of the 2016 Aurora Sentinel All-City Girls Tennis Team, poses on June 29. Johnson and No. 1 doubles teammate Kaitlin Marler earned their first trip to the Class 5A girls state tennis tournament. (Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel)

Grandview’s doubles strength is represented by the repeat All-City duo of senior Olivia Brohl and junior Ila Farhang at No. 2 doubles along with newcomers at No. 4 doubles in senior Racheal Rupprecht and freshman Eleana Welsh, while the Eaglecrest No. 1 doubles team of junior Maya Johnson and sophomore Kaitlin Marler rounds out the team.

On a Regis Jesuit team that had a lot of fresh faces and went through lineup shuffling early in the season, Pedrie was a returning state qualifier and coach Kollman Gearhart ended up pairing her with Belibi, a budding 6-foot-2 basketball standout with intimidating size and athleticism.

Normally a singles player, the quiet Belibi had to adjust to playing with a partner and especially one as effervescent as Pedrie, who calls herself “probably the most extroverted person to ever play tennis.”

“I’ve always been by myself on the court, so when I got a partner, it was really something very different for me,” said Belibi, who had always been a singles player before getting to Regis Jesuit. “Mac is a really loud and energetic person, but she’s also really consistent with her shots and her placement. I’m pretty good net and I have a pretty good serve that she can just finish off, so it worked really well.”

Pedrie met Belibi at a tennis open house the team had before the season started and she had no idea she would eventually be paired with somebody who was just about her exact opposite in terms of

“When you are on the other side of the net, Fran is so intimidating,” Pedrie said. “I’m not a person to get easily intimidated, but it’s really funny how nice she really is when you get to know her. It also blew my mind what she could do at the net and when you have a player like that, it literally opens up the whole world on the court.”

At state, the Raiders lost in the opening round to a team from Fossil Ridge that went on to win the state championship, but that wasn’t the end of the story.

By making the final, the SaberCats brought them back into the playback bracket and they made the most of it with three straight wins — including an epic three-set win against Chatfield in the consolation semifinals on Pedrie’s birthday — and capped it with a 7-6, 4-6, 6-3 win over Heritage’s Olivia Woods and Libby Stroup for third place.

The Raiders’ duo had beaten the Eagles in straight sets in Continental League play, but needed to dig deeper this time and found just what they needed to prevail.

“We talked about how it would be our last match no matter what and I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves,” Pedrie said. “It was quite a bit different match than in the regular season, but it was a fabulous match to end on.”

Belibi, who said she doesn’t care if she plays doubles or singles next season for Regis Jesuit as long as she is on the team, enjoyed how she and Pedrie were able to battle through adversity several times and come through.

“It really taught me about myself and how I play and it really gives me hope for next year and the years to come,” Belibi said. “If I can do that as a freshman, I can definitely do better as a senior.”

Pedrie is headed to Texas Christian University, where she may or may not play club tennis.

Playing an unorthodox style that was more about finesse than power, Quinn had good success in her first season as a singles player with just one regular season loss. She posted the only win of any of Regis Jesuit’s singles players at state with a first round consolation victory.

Erickson and Mydler learned a lot playing at the top of the lineup — where they ended up when a foreign exchange student who had come in had to leave the team — and they earned a chance to play at the state tournament of the first time.

Brohl and Farhang were driven by the disappointment of a quick state exit in 2015 and with their chemistry intact, they both worked to improve their games, especially when it came to going forward and playing at the net.

“I feel like we know each other pretty well and who should hit what shots,” Farhang said. “I can’t imagine having a partner I would be better with.”

Again in a tough regional at Cherry Creek, the Wolves needed to win a playback at regionals to make it back to state, but they took advantage when they got there.

The Grandview duo dispatched Monarch’s Mikayla Dudek and Sarah Mantz 6-2, 6-2 in their opener with the look of state veterans.

“Last year was definitely motivation, we dwelled on that,” Brohl said.

The Wolves ran into Cherry Creek in the second round and actually took a 3-0 lead, only to see the Bruins’ Allison Murphy and Emily Wilkens dominate the rest of the match.

Cherry Creek went on to make the championship match, giving Brohl and Farhang new life in the playback, which they used to post another win before they were eliminated with a loss to a Fairview team that went on to place third.

“We did a lot better than last year; it was tough running into Creek in the second round because otherwise we might have been able to go further,” Farhang said.

Rupprecht played volleyball at Grandview and decided to give tennis a shot as a senior, where she was pared with Welsh, whose older sister Marisa was part of the Wolves’ No. 1 doubles team.

The duo of newcomers gelled and nearly beat Cherry Creek in regionals, then lost to eventual champion Fairview in the first round at state. The Wolves lost in three sets in a consolation match.

Rupprecht — who regretted not playing tennis earlier in her high school career, though it wasn’t really possible given the time she had to dedicate to playing for Grandview’s elite volleyball team — came away satisfied with the result.

“Making it to state was a huge accomplishment with me being new and Lana being a freshman,” Rupprecht said.

“It was the end of the line, as far as you can make it. Although we didn’t do as well as we could have, we played Fairview first, who ended up winning it all. But it was overall a good experience and we both got better from it. Our games, our teamwork and everything improved.”

Johnson and Marler didn’t play together for the entire season and Johnson dealt with a hip injury early in the season, but the two Raptors found their groove late in the season.

Though they lost their first match at regionals, they won three straight with their backs against the wall in order to qualify for their first state tournament, which ended in a first round loss.

“Our first few matches were a little rough because we didn’t know how to play together, but then it started to click,” Johnson said.  “It was exciting to make it to state, but a little bit overwhelming since it was our first time. We want to go back next year.”

Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel

2016 AURORA SENTINEL ALL-CITY GIRLS TENNIS TEAM

No. 1 singles: Mikki Erickson, soph., Regis Jesuit; No. 2 singles: Skyler Mydler, soph,, Regis Jesuit; No. 3 singles: Clare Quinn, sr., Regis Jesuit; No. 1 doubles: Maya Johnson, jr./Kaitlin Marler, soph., Eaglecrest; No. 2 doubles: Olivia Brohl, sr./Ila Farhang, jr., Grandview; No. 3 doubles: Mackenzy Pedrie, sr./Francesca Belibi, fr., Regis Jesuit; No. 4 doubles: Racheal Rupprecht, sr./Eleana Welsh, fr., Grandview

Honorable mention: Niyat Beyene, sr., Overland; Danielle Klem, sr., Vista PEAK; Jordyn Probst, sr.,, Vista PEAK; Tanya Solati, soph., Cherokee Trail; Yehna Bendul, jr./Rachel Cullop, jr., Grandview; Anna Bratlee, sr./Marisa Welsh, sr., Grandview