Mary Williams, Aspen High girls tennis heads to state tournament
The Aspen High School girls tennis team has a chance to do something it hasn’t in recent memory, and that’s possibly make a run at a state title. While it’s still somewhat of a long shot, the Skiers actually have the numbers this spring to make it interesting.
“It’s exciting to have a big group. Just more opportunities for the girls to see what state is all about and come together as a team,” AHS coach Steve Sand said. “There is more opportunity to rack up some points and get some wins. Competition is always tougher at state. It’s just one match at a time. We will be playing some teams we haven’t seen and the competition is going to be strong.”
Aspen is sending nine of a possible 11 varsity players to the Class 3A state tennis championships this week in Greeley. Usually a three-day affair that was scheduled to start Thursday, wet weather in the state forced CHSAA to make it a two-day tournament this year, beginning Friday and concluding Saturday.
This is only the third year there has been a 3A classification for girls tennis, making it difficult to compare and contrast previous Aspen teams with this one. But other than some standout individuals, it isn’t believed the Skiers have ever sent this large of a contingent to the state tournament in program history.
In 2017, the first year of the 3A classification, Aspen finished seventh as a team behind a pair of singles players and a pair of doubles teams. Last spring, AHS tied for seventh as a team in 3A with five players having competed, that being all three singles players and a lone doubles team.
This week, Aspen will have all three singles players again competing at state as well as its top three doubles teams for nine total players.
AHS senior Mary Williams, who has been the team’s No. 1 singles player since her freshman season, hopes a high team finish can help put Aspen girls tennis on the map.
“We have a really good group of girls that get along and we all really want to work hard. But I think tennis, especially girls tennis, has been kind of pushed to the side a little bit at our school,” Williams said. “Not a lot of people know how good we actually are and I think this is proven with how many girls are going to states. I think with the girls that are here, we’ll definitely be able to make a run.”
Here’s a quick look at the nine players Aspen has competing this week at the state championships in Greeley.
Mary Williams, 1 singles
If anyone has been there, done that, it’s Williams. She’s been the team’s centerpiece for four years now and will look to conclude her AHS career by making a bit of noise at state. She’s had arguably her best season as a Skier and certainly brings plenty of experience to Greeley.
“It’s really hard playing 1 singles because every single team has that one top player and I always have to play her. But I think it’s benefited me a lot and it’s made me tougher,” Williams said. “When I was a freshman I was trying to prove something, and I think I still am, but I think I have a lot of pressure come off of me because I know what I can do.”
Williams was one-and-done as a freshman at state, losing 6-0, 6-4 to Denver North’s Mia Oliver in the first round. This was in Class 4A, the year before 3A was created in girls tennis.
As a sophomore in the new 3A classification, Williams won her first-round match before losing in the quarterfinals, but battled back to eventually take third at state. Her loss in the quarters came against Colorado Academy’s Sammy Moore-Thomson, who eventually won the final over Steamboat Springs freshman Mae Thorp.
Last spring, Williams again lost in the second round — to Oliver, of all people — but did not get a spot in the playback rounds. Peak to Peak’s Trisha Somasundaram beat Thorp in the final.
Thorp should be a familiar name, as Williams has faced her numerous times, including twice this season. Williams won both of their matchups in 2019, including in the regional final last week in Grand Junction.
“She should be pretty confident based on her season,” Sand said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what she can do. Again, she can only take care of her side of the net. We’ll see how the other girls are focused and how they are playing.”
Williams, who said she will attend Chapman University in Orange, California, and hopefully play tennis, is scheduled to have a rare first-round bye after her opponent pulled out. This means she will move straight to the quarterfinals and face either D’Evelyn freshman Grace Li or Fountain Valley sophomore Isa Fernandez.
Williams and Thorp have the potential to meet in the semifinals. Somasundaram is back to defend her title and is the only senior on her half of the bracket, opposite Williams.
“I’m expecting a lot of competition, but this year has definitely been my best year so I’m expecting a lot more out of myself, too,” Williams said. “I’ve definitely improved this year and I think regional finals really showed that.”
Macy Hopkinson, 2 singles
Another regional champion, the sophomore is back at state for the second time. Competing at 3 singles a year ago, Hopkinson won her first-round match before losing 6-3, 6-4 to Holy Family’s An Tran in the quarterfinals. She did not make the playbacks.
“I think that 2 singles is harder, but I’ve also gotten better so I think it evens out,” Hopkinson said. “It’s a little bit harder, too, because I’m hoping to do better. I’m just trying to focus really hard on this one.”
Hopkinson will play Alameda senior Maria Ogaz in the first round.
Karina Keller, 3 singles
A junior, Keller made state as a freshman at No. 2 doubles alongside then-senior Grace Ferguson. The duo made it all the way to the state semifinals before losing to a pair from D’Evelyn who ended up winning the bracket. Keller and Ferguson lost in the playback finals to finish fourth.
Playing doubles again last year, Keller came up a match short at regionals and didn’t qualify for state. This is her first season playing singles for the Skiers.
Keller will play Peak to Peak sophomore Tiffany Tran in the first round.
Addy Walson and Bliss Pekkala, 1 doubles
Walson, a junior, and Pekkala, a senior, have experience together as they went to state at No. 2 doubles last spring, losing in the second round to a team from Dawson.
“They have some chemistry. They haven’t played together a ton this year,” Sand said. “So they kind of went into regionals not having played together for a few weeks. But they came together at regionals, did well, and now states.”
They will face University’s Vanessa Gabaldon and Alexsei Vieyra in the first round.
Olivia Burkley and Stef Wojcik, 2 doubles
Burkley is a junior and Wojcik a sophomore, and the two joined Williams and Hopkinson as regional champions this spring. This will be Wojcik’s first time at state, having played 4 doubles last year, while Burkley is headed back for the second time. She also went as a freshman in 2017 where she played 3 doubles alongside Pekkala, losing in the second round.
“We’ve definitely grown a lot,” Burkley said. “At the beginning of the season we lost the first sets, usually, and we’d have to come back and do tiebreaks. But we didn’t do that once at regionals.”
They will face Ahn-Thu Le and Lauryn Parker of Prospect Ridge in the first round.
“We have a lot of momentum, especially after winning regionals,” Wojcik said. “I know I’m personally very excited and I’m sure Olivia is, too.”
Quinn Ramberg and Virginia Tassi, 3 doubles
Both juniors, Ramberg and Tassi are state newcomers. Tassi is actually an exchange student from Italy, who decided to join the AHS tennis team more or less for something to do and didn’t think she’d be playing in the state tournament.
They will face off against Jill Kellick and Lauren Sauley of St. Mary’s in the first round.
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