May 11, 2005 - The campus of Pusch Ridge Christian Academy, 9500 N. Oracle Road, was abuzz May 4 as one of the biggest days on the school's calendar unfolded - the day that yearbooks are distributed.
When students peruse the autographed pages of awkward smiles and fondest wishes for summer exploits, however, they won't find much on the boys and girls tennis teams. They certainly won't find any news on the second-year squad's run into the Class 2A state tournament.
They don't need a yearbook to tell them how good Brent Wolfe and Mya Towne are, however.
Wolfe and Towne are just two of the reasons why the program is achieving more than expected in just its second year.
If the biggest story of the season is the state title won by the freshman Towne (see story at right), then the feel-good tale belongs to Wolfe, who, less than a year ago, watched his tennis career almost come to an end.
Diagnosed with scoliosis after first arriving at Pusch Ridge when his family relocated to Tucson from Las Vegas, Wolfe underwent a lengthy operation to fix a 50-degree curve in his lower spine after the 2004 high school tennis season.
Doctors fused five of Wolfe's lower vertebrae together using one of his ribs in a procedure that took four surgeons and lasted eight hours. As if trying to rebound from having his back surgically straightened wasn't enough of an arduous task for him, one of Wolfe's lungs collapsed in the surgery and never completely healed.
"Technically, I'm not supposed to be playing this year," said Wolfe, who was told by his doctor to expect to sit out 2005.
"He said don't count on it, not many people have come back that quick."
Wolfe didn't play like a student less than a year removed from reconstructive back surgery this season. The junior lost just one match all year - to Tyler McCusker of St. Gregory College Preparatory School.
If anything, back surgery may have helped to slow him down, said head coach David Towne, who added that last year Wolfe would try to hit the ball too hard at times in an attempt to make a play.
"The thing about him is he loves the game," said Towne of Wolfe, "and he's so determined."
The drive to return to the court this season culminated with a No. 2 seed in the Class 1A-2A state tournament. After Wolf won his first match of the tourney, 6-3 6-3, over Madison Murdock of Antelope Union High School, his season was cut short in the following round by No. 1 seeded player Tyler Clonts of Thatcher High School, 6-0 6-3.
With Wolfe expected to return to the court healthier than ever, next year, Pusch Ridge will be looking to capitalize on its breakthrough season in 2005. Wolfe was the only Pusch Ridge player in the 2004 state tournament, but he was joined in this year's tournament by five teammates, including Derek Tilley and Michael Cannon from the boys team, and 1A-2A singles champ Towne, Chelsea Vick and Sarah McCormick from the girls squad.
"Last year was the beginning, and we had a lot of kids involved," said Towne, who coached tennis for 10 years at Flowing Wells High School before moving on to Pusch Ridge, "but not many were tennis players."
Tilley and Cannon were eliminated from the state tournament, held May 6-7 at the Tucson Racquet Club, in the first round of doubles action to Vargas and Udom of Miami, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2. Vick and McCormick notched a win over Martinez and Sichling of Florence High School before bowing out to Pearce and Tipton of Duncan High School, 4-6, 6-1, 6-1.