CHEYENNE – Two wins helped seal the Cheyenne East girls first South Regional tennis championship.
And one of those victories came from the Lady Thunderbirds cross-town rivals.
The first win came from East’s Sydney O’Brien and Finley Kastens, who defeated Green River’s Alicia Harrison and Kiley Strange, 7-6, 7-6 to win the No. 1 doubles title. The second triumph came from Cheyenne Central sophomore Ashli Smedley, who downed Green River’s Gabrielle Heiser, 6-4, 6-0 in the No. 1 singles spot.
Smedley’s win kept Green River three points behind East in the team standings. The Lady T-Birds finished with 53 points to win the regional title.
O’Brien and Kastens’ match was every bit as close as the score would indicate. They trailed late in the second set, and then had to rally from a 6-2 deficit during the tie-breaker.
“We stayed positive,” Kastens said. “(O’Brien) is always there to lift me up and keep me from getting down on myself. That’s important.
“We just needed to relax, believe in ourselves and push through because we were both really nervous.”
Those nerves led to Kastens and O’Brien playing tentatively and extending points they probably should have been able to end. Shaking off those nerves helped deliver the win, O’Brien said.
“We started hitting aggressive shots trying to end points instead of just being consistent,” O’Brien said. “We aimed for consistency and hit a lot of easy shots when we should have hit more aggressive shots.
“We were probably too scared of falling behind to be as aggressive as we needed to.”
East also got a runner-up finish from senior Nedra McIlwaine at No. 2 singles, and the No. 3 doubles team of Serena Farris and Zoey Woods.
Central seniors Katie Thomson and Kashli Brown beat Farris and Woods, 6-3, 6-7, 6-2.
“We’ve learned how to make matches point-by-point and not get discouraged,” Brown said.
Farris and Woods won the regular season regional title. That included a win over Thomson and Brown, so the Lady Indians duo knew they had to be locked in.
“There was one point where my dad cheered and said, ‘You’ve got this game,’” Thomson said. “We both looked at each other and said, ‘We’ve got this point’ almost at the same time. We took it very step-by-step and were really calm and slow.
“We’ve learned how to play a lot better than we did at the beginning of the season.”
Second-year East coach Nicole Cameron was voted the South Region girls coach of the year.
Central was third in the team standings with 49 points. Smedley mixed up her play during her straight sets win at No. 1 singles. There were times she pounded away from the baseline, times when she cut down angles by coming to the net and times where she used spin to her advantage.
“I tried to mix it up by where I hit it, how I hit it and where I placed the shots,” Smedley said. “I just wanted to keep (Heiser) seeing different things and keep her off balance instead of always seeing the same thing.
“I’m trying to mix it up and become a better player. This is the first weekend that I’ve really used it. It’s a lot better for me.”
Green River claimed the boys championship with 53 points. Laramie was second at 47, and Cheyenne South took third at 46.
South sophomore Andrew Lock beat Green River’s Braxton Cordova, 6-1, 6-1, to win the No. 1 singles title. Those were the only two games he dropped across three matches in the tournament.
“I got a lot of balls in play, got a lot of serves in and went deep instead of going wide or short,” Lock said. “When you hit the ball deep, your opponent has to hit the ball from farther back on the court. That lets you get up to the net and finish points off easier.
“I started off with big serves that kept them from hitting winners. They hit a lot of returns that allowed me to get up to the net like I wanted.”
Sophomore Nikolas Lock cruised to a 6-0 win in the first set of the No. 2 singles final against Laramie’s Paulo Mellizo. However, Mellizo claimed the second set 6-3 before Lock battled his way through a 6-4 third-set win.
“I just needed to hang in there, keep balls in and wait for (Mellizo) to hit balls out,” Nikolas Lock said. “I was committing too many errors in the second set and getting too down on myself and too mad at myself.
“I was going too big when I thought I had good balls, and I would hit them out. I needed to be smart and just get them over.”
Central’s Sergio Villalobos-Alvarado and Mike Ellison rallied from a set down to win the No. 3 doubles title against Laramie’s Gavin Baker and Gage Hepworth, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3.
“We started playing smart shots instead of hard shots in the second set, and that helped us turn it around,” Ellison said. “I was a little nervous and wasn’t talking much, but we did a good job of making comments to help each other between points.”
Ellison and Villalobos-Alvarado are undefeated this season.
“We have a little more experience than some of the other No. 3 doubles teams around the state, but we’re mostly smart about the way we play,” Villalobos-Alvarado said.
The state tournament starts Thursday in Gillette.
1. Cheyenne East 53; 2. Green River 50; 3. Cheyenne Central 49; 4. Laramie 40; 5. Rock Springs 13; 6. Rawlins 7; 7. Cheyenne South 6; 8. Torrington 5.
No. 1 singles
Championship: A. Smedley, Central, def. Heiser, Green River, 6-4, 6-0. Third-place: Frazier, East, def. Woelk, Laramie, 6-1, 6-2.
No. 2 singles
Championship: Counts, Green River, def. McIlwaine, East, 6-1, 6-2. Third-place: Wallhead, Laramie, def. Osterland, Central, 6-3, 2-6, 6-3.
No. 1 doubles
Championship: O’Brien/Kastens, East, def. Harrison/Strange, Green River, 7-6, 7-6. Third-place: Dorrell/Moore, Laramie, def. Ackerman/J. Brown, Central, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1.
No. 2 doubles
Championship: Kersey/Wulff, Laramie, def. K. Tempel/Tyler, Central, 6-2, 7-5. Third-place: Baktamarian/Murphy, East, def. Brown/Strauss, Green River, 7-5, 6-3.
No. 3 doubles
Championship: Thomson/K. Brown, Central, def. Farris/Woods, East, 6-3, 6-7, 6-2. Third-place: Travis/Skinner, Green River, def. Hollingshead/Hamblin, Rock Springs, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.
1. Green River 53; 2. Laramie 47; 3. Cheyenne South 46; 4. Cheyenne Central 35; 5. Torrington 22; 6. Rawlins 8; 7t. Cheyenne East; Rock Springs 6.
No. 1 singles
Championship: A. Lock, South, def. Cordova, Green River, 6-1, 6-1. Third-place: Saucedo, Torrington, def. Rigg, Central, 6-2, 7-6.
No. 2 singles
Championship: N. Lock, South, def. Mellizo, Laramie, 6-0, 3-6, 6-4. Third-place: Arnell, Green River, def. Cook, Central, 6-4, 6-2.
No. 1 doubles
Championship: Friel/Tirrell, Green River, def. Alexander/Johnson-Noya, Laramie, 7-6, 7-6. Third-place: Van Kirk/Thornell, Central, def. Davidson/Torres, South, 6-2, 6-1.
No. 2 doubles
Championship: O’Connor/Russo, Laramie, def. Findlow/Wendel, Green River, 6-3, 7-5. Third-place: Jo. Moyte/Je. Moyte, South, def. Bartlett/Firminhac, Torrington, 7-6, 7-6.
No. 3 doubles
Championship: Villalobos-Alvarado/Ellison, Central, def. Baker/Hepworth, Laramie, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3. Third-place: Ross/Arellano, Green River, def. Anderson/Atkinson, Rock Springs, 6-1, 6-3.