Highland girls tennis claims Region 6 title
Oct 30, 2019 03:53PM
● By Josh McFadden
The Highland girls tennis team placed first in Region 6 and eighth in Class 5A. From left: Sam Kiburtz, Emma Thomas, Sophie Hastings, Lucy Foulks, Janie Ontiveros, Abby Bradford, Kate Creamer. (Photo by Jenny Mauro)
By Josh McFadden | [email protected]
Despite losing one of its top players before the season began, the Highland girls tennis team took home the top prize in region play, winning the Region 6 tournament Oct. 3.
Highland faced stiff competition from East but edged out the Leopards for the top spot in the league. It was the first region championship for the Rams since 1993. Not bad for a team that placed last in its region just two years ago.
Head coach Jeanine Elsholz is thrilled with the accomplishment and credits her players and coaching staff for attaining this height.
“Reaching this milestone is a big deal for us,” she said. “To see this much success in such a short time has been very exciting for us as a school. It definitely confirms that as a program we are headed in the right direction. It was rewarding for me to see the girls so happy and excited about winning it all. Not many teams get to experience the feeling of winning a championship, and I am so happy for them! It takes a lot of work to turn a program around, and we never would have been able to do it without the help of my sons, Brevin and Christopher Elsholz. They donate their time in helping these kids improve and have been a big part of Highland's success.”
Based on regular season results, Highland held a two-point advantage over second place East going into the tournament. In the tournament, the two teams had the same number of points, but the cushion from earlier matches helped the Rams prevail.
On the first day of the tournament, the Rams won nine of the 10 matches, moving four of their five positions into the championship match the following day. Second doubles players Janie Ontiveros and Emma Thomas placed first in their bracket. First singles player Sophie Hastings, who was the team’s second singles player a year ago, anchored the team all season and wound up first at the region tournament.
“With very few exceptions, [Hastings’] matches were all convincing wins,” Elsholz said. “She is one of the most talented players in the state on the court and is one of the kindest off. She represents Highland and everything we stand for so well.”
Second singles competitor Lucy Foulks also scored some key points for the Rams, including a big win over a talented foe from East in the second round. First doubles teammates Abby Bradford and Sam Kirburtz pulled off what Elsholz said was “the biggest comeback I have ever been a part of.” After losing convincingly in set No. 1, the duo then got down 5-2 in the second set before holding off several match points. They won the next five games to take the second set and then completed the turnaround with a quick win in the third set to dispatch the opposition from Skyline.
At third singles, Kate Creamer also contributed all season long and was consistent and dependable for the Rams.
“This tournament win was definitely a team effort,” Elsholz said. “We couldn’t have done it without all seven players coming through for us.”
Highland faced stiffer competition the following week at the Class 5A state tournament. The Rams tied for eighth out of 27 teams, picking up four points. Hastings won in the first round but fell in the quarterfinals. Creamer also took care of her first-round opponents but then lost in a three-set match in the quarterfinals. Both doubles teams won their first matches but couldn’t get by their next tests, losing in three sets each.
“We had a few freshman who had new-to-state jitters (our two freshmen and two seniors were all there for the first time), but we also had [Creamer] step up and play the best tennis we have seen her play all season,” Elsholz said. “She almost knocked off an undefeated player from Timpview in the second round. We were definitely disappointed that no one advanced to the second day, but we are a young team and we will be back.”
Elsholz said many teams are losing seniors this season, while Highland will return its top five players in 2020.