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Gordon rallies to win state tennis title

Aspen Times Staff Report

Two points. That’s all that separated Aspen sophomore Laura Gordon from a two-set defeat in the championship match of the Class 4A High School Girls Tennis Tournament Saturday at City Park in Pueblo.

Down a set and trailing 5-1 in a second-set tiebreaker, Gordon and her opponent, Montrose’s Stacy Kneese, both thought Kneese had the match wrapped up.

But then, in a stunning turn of events, Gordon rediscovered her forehand and won the next six points to take the second set on the way to a most improbable 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 victory to claim the first state tennis championship in Aspen High School history.

“I thought it was over,” Gordon told Dave Socier of The Denver Post. “The photographers and the TV cameras were getting set up.”

“I thought I had it won,” Kneese, the defending state champion, told Socier. “Two points! Instead of me winning two more and getting the second set, Laura won six straight points.”

Gordon went up 3-1 in the first set before her normally potent forehand abandoned her. She made a number of unforced errors which, combined with a slew of winners by Kneese, added up to a 6-4 loss in the first set.

The two girls traded service breaks in the second set to arrive at 6-all and force the tiebreaker before Kneese opened up the seemingly insurmountable 5-1 lead.

“Laura’s forehand had gone south,” said Aspen coach Sherril Kerr. “Then all of a sudden it decided to show up.”

Gordon made three forehand winners in the next six points to take the tiebreaker 7-5 and send the match to a third set.

Once again Kneese matched Gordon game for game until the third set stood at 3-3, but then Gordon took over and won the next three games to earn the victory and the first state title in Aspen tennis history.

“She had a great tournament,” said Kerr. “This is everything she’s been working for.”

Gordon, who has been training at the Chris Evert Tennis Academy in Florida, very nearly didn’t play for Aspen this spring, but told Socier she’s glad Kerr helped change her mind.

“After I won my first match this season I knew it was right,” she said. “All my friends are there and I love playing for this team.”

Gordon’s coach was also happy with the decision. “She’s a great kid in addition to being a great tennis player,” said Kerr. “And she’s a great teammate. She pulls for all the other girls, and she’s taught them stuff I couldn’t teach them.”

The Aspen tennis team, which finished sixth in the state, also got strong performances from the two doubles teams that qualified for the state tournament.

Senior Allison Ortmann and freshman Nicole Hernandez, playing No. 1 doubles won a first-round match before bowing out in the second round. The No. 3 doubles team of freshmen Brittany Biebl and Jacqueline Pearlstone also won a first-round match at the tournament, but came up short in the second round as well.

“We went there with three freshmen, a sophomore and a senior,” said Kerr, “so we’ll be back strong next year.”


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