PUEBLO – On a glorious, crisp fall morning that was all Colorado in this southern City Park, Mullen took some hits, but reached what is believed to be a new height.
The Mustangs grabbed second place on Saturday among teams with their considerable depth at the Class 4A boys tennis tournament, as it was called their first-ever runner-up, crowned a doubles champion, had three others finish second and watched their No. 2 singles player also finish one place from the championship level.
In his third season in command, head coach Jacob Ohrman said he’s pleased with the progress and wants more in the future.
“As far as I know,” the coach said. “that’s the best finish Mullen has ever had.
“Obviously, we would have liked some of the matches to go the other way, but I’m super-proud of my guys. Second place at state is nothing to hang your head for; you keep your head up.”
The Mustangs entered the final day trailing Cheyenne Mountain 69-54 and with two tough stipulations to take the championship – they had to win all of their matches to attain the maximum 15 points and the Indians could not earn another one. Neither occurred, but there was zero whining by Mullen.
“It’s a good send-off,” Mustangs senior J.P. Starkey said. “I’m really pleased and we had a good season overall.”
Teaming with Tanner Amman, Starkey was involved with one of the top matches of the tournament, winning 6-7 (3-7), 6-3, 6-2 at No. 1 doubles over Kent Denver’s Jack Domich-Casey Klutznick. The Sun Devils duo trailed 5-1 in the first set, but stormed back … and the Mullen twosome didn’t panic.
“I mean, we were just trying to keep going, knowing they were still pressuring, pressuring, pressuring,” Amman said. “There were some worries. There were some crazy points. Some of them went our way, some went their way, but we turned it around and we put it in the past.”
Said Starkey: “It was awesome, a crazy experience.”
At No. 2, freshman Jack Barker, who demonstrated his interesting talent by teaming with Coleman Guthrie, lost 6-2, 6-2 to Cheyenne Mountain’s Robbie Metz-Jackson Miller.
“It was a great experience and I so wanted to be a part of a team,” Barker said.” I had never been a part of a tennis team before. The guys just showed so much support …. for sure, it bodes well for next year and each year I’m going to try to make a better positon on the team.”
Barker-Guthrie had defeated the same Indians team in three sets in the regular season, but Guthrie, a senior, said: ”We started out flat-footed today.”
Still, he enjoyed being with Barker despite the age and size difference, saying he was “super-excited” about it and insisting “there’s no better partner in the word than Jack Barker.”
Mullen’s Charlie Manta-Greg McMullan lost 7-6, 6-3 to Cheyenne Mountain’s Joseph Martensen-Miles Wagner at No. 3 doubles, where they also had won the regular-season matchup.
“It would have been nice to win the final, but just making it that far was just amazing and for my senior year to make it means a lot,” Manta said, “and especially since my freshman year, when we only got one point at state. This year, we were second.”
The Luc Caldwell-Kevin McGuire team at No. 4 doubles went down to Kent Denver’s Drew Fenton-Sam McDonald 6-2, 6-2 and had no issues displaying sportsmanship.
“We had a great state tournament and we caught (the Sun Devils) on a good day and they played better than we did,” Caldwell said.
Said McGuire, a senior: “Luc and I had a great season. It was my first year on varsity and I’ve got to give props to Fenton-McDonald). They played lights out together.
“Saying goodbye to high-school tennis is pretty tough, but when you have a good partner, it’s great.”
And Hanzel, a junior who was beaten out late in preseason to switch to No. 2 singles from No. 1 and beaten up by shoulder, knee and groin injuries during the season, also had no complaints after losing 6-1, 6-2 to Cheyenne Mountain senior Paul Jones,
“He was good,” Hanzel said of Jones. “I’m so happy finishing second, it’s not too shabby. And I’m really happy with the season.”
In addition, junior Mac Caldwell won a preliminary match at No. 1 singles before missing out on a chance to play for third place, and No. 3 singles player Dante Dino, another junior, overcame two calf injuries into regionals to narrowly miss qualifying.
Mullen finished with 57 points to Cheyenne Mountain’s 85. Next were Niwot (43), Kent Denver (37) and D’Evelyn (29).
The Mustangs should be back to challenge again next season, Ohrman said.
We lose five seniors,” the coach said about the 2020 season. “It bodes well because we’re not losing any of our top-three guys (at singles). We’ve (also) got Jack Barker, Greg McMullan, who’s a stud, Luc Caldwell, who’s a stud … we’re in good shape to make a run next year.
“We put ourselves into position to win a state title and that’s all you can ask for.”