Taking a page from Yogi Berra's book, it was déjà vu all over again at the 5A-II girls tennis state championships for Centennial.
For the second straight season, No. 6-seed Horizon (12-4) ousted the No. 2 Coyotes (16-0) in the semifinals, 5-2. Last year, the No. 2 Huskies notched a 5-1 win against the No. 6 Centennial as they went on to win the state title.
" It's been a terrific run," said Centennial coach Barbara Saunders. "I tell the girls every year ‘this is the best team I've had,' but this year I meant it. We reached the state semifinals two years in a row, were top 4 in state this year; I couldn't have have asked for a better group of kids."
Horizon took charge early, claiming first set wins on all but the No. 1 court, and came out with straight-set victories on courts 2, 4, 5 and 6. But it was court 3 that garnered the attention.
When Centennial's Erica Meza saw people heading to her court, she said she knew the team was counting on her.
To that point, the Coyote girls tennis team had lost four of five courts. Another loss and the doubles side would be unneccessary.
"That was extra motivation seeing everyone at my court, and it was great to hear everyone cheering me on," Meza said.
Meza and Horizon's Brianna Forster split the first two sets (2-6, 6-4) to reach the third. The Coyote senior took a 4-2 lead after Forster double faulted, but lost her serve when Horizon's No. 3 charged the net and sent a lob forehand over Meza's head. Forster would tie the set in the next game as she relied on her forehand and an ace to make it 4-4.
Meza had a chance to put Forster away twice, at 5-4 and 6-5, but couldn't break her serve, forcing the tiebreaker.
Forster went up 2-0 before she sent a little forehand pass into the net while charging up front. She lost the next two points on long lobs but notched the battle at three on an ace that hugged the center line.
A forehand lob to the baseline gave Meza the edge at 4-3, and spurred a 3-point run to give the Coyote a 6-3 lead. Forster pulled to within on, winning a forehand pass and letting a Meza lob go long. But she couldn't control a Meza pass, sending her cross shot into the net and handing Centennial its second win on the singles side.
"Erica was wonderful today, and with everyone watching she performed," Saunders said. "We held together and Erica's play at No. 3 made us go further today. That was unbelievable. She played great today, but she has always been our go to, clutch player this year."
Needing to sweep doubles to pull off the unlikely come-from-behind win, the Coyotes had leads at both No. 1 doubles and No. 3. However, it was court two that proved the difference.
Horizon coach Bill Dillon split his team so his No. 1 singles player, Kendra Ross, was matched with his No. 4, Lauren Raymond, on court 2. Saunders countered with her No. 3, Meza, and No. 4, Bryana Edgell.
"It was a hard call (to put Edgell and Meza together), but I felt we needed to do it," Saunders said. "We needed to take a chance, and I had to do what I was thought was right to match up Horizon. No matter what happened today, the girls worked hard to improve this season, and it's been fun to watch them grow from freshman in the sport to where they are now."
The move was curious since Edgell and her usual doubles partner, Kayla Hooley, have reached the state individual doubles quarterfinals. They will face Corina Yeh and
Emily Barkenbush of Pinnacle at Paseo Racquet Center at 5 p.m. Friday.
The risk didn't pay off as Edgell and Meza fell 10-3 to Ross/Raymond.
"You have to give a lot of credit to Horizon who are deep at nearly each court," Saunders said. "(Coach Dillon) was smart to mix up his doubles teams. That clinched the match for them."
While Centennial wanted to a chance to face top-seed Pinnacle Tuesday, Saunders said this was a special season for the program. One in which the school received its highest tournament seeding and an undefeated regular season.
"There's not words to explain what these girls mean to me," Saunder said. "I am so proud of all the girls. I'm honored to be their coach and really enjoyed the journey with my five graduating seniors."
Also in 5A-II semifinal team action were the Centennial boys tennis team who lost to Horizon, 5-0.
Alana Wiesing (C) def. Kendra Ross (H), 6-3 6-3
Jessica Trink (H) def. Candice Walker (C), 6-2 6-2
Erica Meza (C) def. Brianna Forster (H), 2-6 6-4 7-6 (7-5)
Lauren Raymond (H) def. Bryana Edgell (C), 6-0 6-2
Taylor Kessler (H) def. Kayla Hooley (C), 6-1 6-3
Carrie Plungis (H) def. Andrea Crandall (C), 6-3 6-3
No. 2: Ross/Raymond def. Edgell/Meza, 10-3