Erik Sheldon had been in this situation before. In last year’s semifinals, the Phoenix Mountain Pointe tennis player and teammate Andy Nguyen were in a must-win game for a chance to meet eventual state champion Tucson Salpointe, leading 7-4.
Phoenix Brophy rallied in that match, giving the Broncos a 5-4 victory, and leaving Sheldon with a memory he hoped he could erase.
In Monday’s 5A-I semifinals, in similar conditions, Sheldon got his chance.
Down 9-6 to Brophy’s Eric Chalmers and Chris Salvatore, Sheldon and Tyler Petcher stormed back, fighting off both power serves, wind and raindrops to win 11-10 and give the Pride a 5-4 victory and their chance to play top seed Salpointe today in the finals.
“It feels great, especially after losing it in the same way last year,” Sheldon said. “I think it sets a nice tone for us (today). Now we’re pumped up.
“We will need to refocus,” Sheldon said. “(Salpointe’s) whole lineup is so deep. But coach (Dan Ray) has said since the beginning of the year to maintain and build on our confidence. We will take this and do what he says.”
Much like last year, Nguyen and Sheldon got second-seeded Mountain Pointe going early, but Brophy’s Lorenz Laurel and Chalmers quickly evened things up, and Salvatore’s 6-0, 6-0 win over Petcher forced the match to be decided by doubles competition.
Mountain Pointe split the first two doubles matches, leaving only Sheldon-Petcher and Chalmers-Salvatore to decide it.
There was no drama for Salpointe, which blew through Mesa Red Mountain 5-0.
Phoenix Xavier, despite a 15-minute rain delay, swept Phoenix Mountain Pointe 5-0 to advance to the 5A-I girls finals, breezing to straight sets.
The second-seeded Gators face ninth-seeded Tucson Salpointe, which made short work of Mesa Red Mountain 5-0 and did it fast enough to allow top player Kate McGeorge to cut short her match and get a little rest for today.
“It’ll be a battle tomorrow,” said Xavier coach Laurie Martin, who, like every team in the tournament, is not surprised the low-seeded Lancers are back to defend their state title.
“They showed where they should have been seeded,” Martin said. “However, we both have key players in place, and I expect a 5-4 match (today), hopefully in our favor.”
“This is a chance for our girls to seize the moment.”
Sarah Serrano beat Mountain Pointe’s Kathryn Cantrill, 6-1, 6-0, and Michelle Yu beat Zoe Manos, 6-0, 6-0, to lead Xavier.
Scottsdale Desert Mountain swept Peoria Centennial 5-0 to meet Phoenix North Canyon, which defeated Tempe Marcos de Niza 5-1, in today’s 5A-II team championship finals.
Andrew McCurdy led the defending state champion’s charge with a 6-3, 6-0 win over Centennial’s Eric Schroeder.
The battle with North Canyon is a rematch of last year’s finals.
Top-seeded and defending state champion Scottsdale Desert Mountain defeated Phoenix North Canyon 5-1 in its semifinal match, setting up a clash with second-seeded Anthem Boulder Creek today.
Desert Mountain’s Emily Harris beat Boulder Creek’s Hannah Adewumi, 6-1, 6-2, to get things rolling, and Jessica and Evelyn Heigh both won their singles matches, 6-0, 6-0.
Desert Mountain defeated Boulder Creek, a 5-3 winner over Phoenix Shadow Mountain in the other semifinal matchup, earlier this year, 8-1.