State tennis championships: I-Ridge boys, girls dance away with titles

After court wins, both teams hustle home for the prom
2012-05-06T00:00:00Z State tennis championships: I-Ridge boys, girls dance away with titlesDaniel Gaona Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 06, 2012 12:00 am  • 

GLENDALE - Ironwood Ridge swept the Division II team tennis titles within minutes of each other for the first time ever Saturday.

Then they headed straight to prom to celebrate.

The Nighthawks boys won their first state title since 2009 as they played in their fourth championship match in the last five years while the girls won their first title in team history, playing in their first championship since 2004.

It came down to doubles on both sides and both championship matches were decided within three minutes of each other at the Paseo Racquet Center.

Senior Michael Izzard and freshman Ryan Knox hung on for a 10-8 win in doubles to secure a 5-3 win over Cave Creek Cactus Shadows for the boys title.

Then junior Sara Brown and senior Alex Prassas fought out a 10-7 win in doubles to lift the Nighthawks to a 5-4 victory over Catalina Foothills, the three-time defending state champions.

Once the teams got their trophies and took pictures, the players hurried back to Tucson to make it back in time for prom, which started less than three hours after the matches ended.

"It's exciting to get there after we just won," Brown said with a huge smile.

Brown was likely the most valuable player for the Ironwood Ridge girls.

She edged Foothills senior and this year's Division II singles champion Zaina Sufi 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 to win in singles and later helped lock up the win in doubles along side Prassas.

"She just proved herself today by being one of the best there is," girls coach Bill Little said. "They all put their best effort forward. They were determined they were going to earn it."

This was the third time I-Ridge and Foothills played this season having lost the previous two times. Brown said she didn't want to give anything up because she realized how big of a difference one loss could make.

It was a similar but different case with the boys team. Although it entered doubles play only needing one win, coach Ryan Bias knew it needed to come from his No. 3 squad so there was a sense of pressure.

"Looking at the match-ups, our best chance was there," Bias said.

The reason was that Cactus Shadows had both the Division II singles and doubles state champions on its team so Bias said depth was the leading factor to the win. The Nighthawks lost in the top doubles match and in the top two singles matches.

So all the attention was on the No. 3 match and once Cactus Shadows returned a ball out of bounds for the final point, the Nighthawks poured onto the court.

Ryan Knox was happy to start off his career with a state title. He was also the first singles winner for the boys.

"It really hit me when everyone started storming the court," the freshman said. "That's when I got really happy."

Junior Katrina Domingo earned the first win for the Ironwood Ridge girls and but moments later junior Rachana Bhat got a win for Foothills.

That trend continued until the end of the match, and the teams each won three singles matches.

Bhat said it's nice to have a tough team like Ironwood Ridge to compete with right up the road.

"I hope we can get them next year," she added.

Division III

Pusch Ridge Christian, the defending state champions lost 5-3 to Thatcher in the finals. Coincidentally that was the same team it beat last year to win it all.

The Lions split the six singles matches, but Thatcher went on to win in doubles. Pusch Ridge coach David Towne said the No. 3 doubles match is what decided it because the Lions were in line to win in the No. 2 spot.

"It can't get much closer than that, so I'm proud of my kids," Towne said. "We have the top three coming back and we're losing our Nos. 4 and 6."

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