PUEBLO – Lauren Manwiller spent the early part of her past week in bed, down with a respiratory infection.
On Saturday, exhausted under a searing sun and with a gravelly voice reminiscent of characters in a 1940s movie, she became Mullen’s first No. 1 singles champion and led the Mustangs to their first team title in 15 years.
Behind Manwiller and a strong doubles effort, the Mustangs outdistanced the Class 4A field handily in rolling to their third overall team title. The Mustangs, in riding championships at four spots, three in doubles, outdistanced runner-up and ever-present Cheyenne Mountain 45-27.
“I’m so, so, so proud of them,” Mustangs head coach Jera Sturgell said. “Every one of them contributed and they all played so well.”
At the front was Manwiller, a three-time state qualifier who’s headed to Loyola-Maryland and lost just once in the new Season D in 2021 (to the 5A 2019 champion and 2021 runner-up). She won each of her four matches over two days in straight sets, including 6-2, 6-4 in the final over Loveland’s Beilynn Geiss.
“The first match here I got tired, but I knew I couldn’t let it get in my way,” Manwiller said in describing her “massive cold … I could not worry about it and just had to play. I just had to give it my all. It’s the state final, I can’t give up.”
She didn’t. Manwiller dropped both opening games, but quickly gathered herself with power strokes to offset Geiss’ various spins and drop shots. Only late in the second set did Geiss opt for power, but Manwiller’s was better. So was her ability to spot shots, regularly getting the ball deep to the baseline and responding with terrific returns ... she refused to be denied.
“Lauren makes the best players in the state look like (junior-varsity) players,” teammate Madeline Crites said.
Said Manwiller: “I’m so excited just for the team … we were all playing for each other. Not having a season last year (because of the coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic) was really hard. It made it special.”
Such was the case for Mullen’s doubles teams that provided the necessary depth for the overall championship.
At No. 2 doubles, Scanlan-Izzy Desjardins downed Emma Rose-Izzy Ballard of Grand Junction 6-4, 6-2.
“I’d say we just worked hard the whole time,” Desjardins said. “And especially beating Cheyenne Mountain, it made it that much sweeter.”
For Scanlan “it was electric!”
Madeline Crites-Aubryanne Leugers, at No. 3 doubles, rolled Meredith Emerson-Meghan Ravi of Silver Creek 6-3, 6-3.
“It kind of feels unreal,” Crites said. “We just took it step-by-step and here we are.”
Leugers, surprised she’s a champion, said “I didn’t even think I would make varsity, so to be here is really cool.”
She, too, “missed tennis so much (from last year). It’s amazing to get out here and play.”
Perhaps the most-interesting and definitely the longest match came at No. 4 doubles, where the Mustangs’ Renee Hoyt-Clara Dailey outlasted Rama Land-Jessica Fahrney of Cheyenne Mountain in an epic 6-3, 6-7, 7-6 (9-7). Hoyt-Dailey also were down 1-6 in the tiebreaker before rallying.
“I think we just realized trat no matter what happened, we just had to play our best,” Hoyt said. “I was so glad to have a great partner.”
Dailey, in making the final, said she came to win “and I was thinking to myself, it’s one more and they were definitely not getting one more (point to win). It’s definitely crazy.”
Mullen No. 2 singles Alexia Yost made the semifinals; No. 3 singles Marin Smith went out in the first round; and No. 1 doubles Brooklyn Hanley-Parker Durand lost in the second round as the Mustangs’ full contingent qualified and was needed.
“Half of the team was new,” Sturgell said. “We didn’t have a season lat year, we had weather problems … I dreamt this would happen and shed a few tears … and it did happen!”
CLASS 4A TOURNAMENT
At Pueblo City Park
TEAM SCORES – Mullen 45, Cheyenne Mountain 27, Niwot 25, Kent Denver 21, Palmer Ridge 15, Loveland 14, Grand Junction 13, Silver Creek 9, Windsor 5, Dakota Ridge 4, Lewis-Palmer and Thompson Valley 3, Denver South 2, Coronado, Central (G.J.), Pueblo West and George Washington 1, Air Academy, Canon City, Durango, Evergreen, Green Mountain, Longmont, Mead, Mesa Ridge, Montrose, Pine Creek, Ponderosa, Pueblo Centennial, Pueblo East, Thomas Jefferson.
No. 1 singles – Lauren Manwiller, Mullen def. Alys Pop, Niwot 7-5, 6-1.
No. 2 singles – Anna Sallee, Niwot def. Lexi Yost, Mullen 6-2, 6-3.
No. 2 doubles – Tierney Scanlan-Izzy Desjardins, Mullen def. Ellie Flinn-Chloe Hart, Lewis-Palmer 6-1, 6-2.
No. 3 doubles – Madeline Crites-Aubryanne Leugers, Mullen def. Chelsea Young-Kaya Kimmey, Palmer Ridge 6-1, 6-2.
No. 4 doubles – Renee Hoyt-Clara Dailey, Mullen def. Hail Hill-Rebecca Harris, Dakota Ridge 6-3, 6-4.
No. 1 singles – Lauren Manwiller, Mullen def. Beilynn Geiss, Loveland, 6-2, 6-4.
No. 2 doubles – Tierney Scanlan-Izzy Desjardins, Mullen def. Emma Rose-Izzy Ballard, Grand Junction 6-4, 6-2.
No. 3 doubles – Madeline Crites-Aubryanne Leugers, Mullen def. Meredith Emerson-Meghna Ravi, Silver Creek 6-3, 6-3.
No. 4 doubles – Renee Hoyt-Clara Dailey, Mullen def. Rama Land-Jessica Fahrney, Cheyenne Mountain 6-3, 6-7, 7-6 (9-7).