The Ironwood Ridge girls’ tennis team was ecstatic as it trumped rival Catalina Foothills 5-4 to take down the team state title in Division II play on May 5.
All the practice, hard work, and dedication leading to that point had finally paid off. For the girls, there was likely no better feeling.
That, except having the boys’ team, who had claimed their team’s state championship minutes earlier, celebrating the victory alongside them.
Less than ten minutes before the girls finished doubles play to seal the championship, the boys’ team defeated #2 seed Cactus Shadows 5-3 to claim a title of their own.
The pair of wins marks the first time in Ironwood’s history that both tennis teams have claimed a state title simultaneously.
For the girls’ team, the win over Catalina Foothills was the first to come all season, having lost in the two previous regular season matches 3-6 and 4-5.
“Our progress was good,” said Little. “I think they just improved the whole season, they were determined, and win lose or draw in the final, we’re going to make whatever team we’re up against earn it.”
But in the end, it was the Nighthawks who earned it.
Katrina Domingo got the ball rolling for the Nighthawks, defeating Kirtana Bhat (6-1; 6-1) in singles play.
Sara Brown and her cousin, freshman Kelsey Brown, were involved in the other four wins needed to pull off the team championship. Sara, ranked third in the state in singles play, upset singles state champion Zaina Sufi in three sets (6-3; 4-6; 6-2). Sufi had beaten Sara in their two prior matches during the regular season.
“It felt really good to come out ahead,” said Sara. “We play against each other a lot, and I knew it was going to be a tough match. I knew if I had lost it would be really hard to bring it back in doubles. It ended up being a huge match for us.”
Sara followed up the singles win with another in doubles play alongside partner Alex Prassas. The duo defeated Foothills’ Kirtana Bhat and Hailey Hagerty, 10-7.
Kelsey defeated Noelle Karp in singles play and went on to win her doubles match with partner Stephanie Nickles, defeating Karp and Brandee Cheung 10-6. Nickles nearly won her singles match as well, but fell 17-15 in a first set tiebreaker.
“We’re obviously very happy with the result,” said Little. “It’s been a season of hard work, practice, and a lot of intensity. The team really came together, and it made it heartwarming to see that result and see the girls happy. We owe a lot to the parents for their support as well.”
The #1 seed boys’ team found little friction in their path to the state championship, shutting out Sahuarita 5-0 in the first stage of the tournament, and next taking out Catalina Foothills 5-1 and Sunnyslope 5-1 before facing Cactus Shadows in the finals.
Pulling out wins in singles for the Nighthawks were Alex Bose defeating Griffin Dales (6-4; 6-2), Adam Knox defeating Mason McConville (6-3; 6-1), Michael Izzard defeating Joey Anderson (6-0; 6-1), and Ryan Knox defeating Jack Peterson (6-2; 6-0).
Izzard and Ryan Knox kept the win streak going in doubles play, where they bested Anderson and Peterson 10-8 to seal the win for the Nighthawks.
“It’s always a good feeling to win it,” said boys’ coach Ryan Bais. “It’s unique too, because we have won a couple times in years past, but this year we have a new group of kids, so for them, it was their first time.”
Bais said the key to the win was the depth of the team’s talent.
“We knew they had a couple of really good players,” he said. “But we knew we had a better team and a better one through six, and that’s really been something that has pulled us through a lot of matches this year. I just tried to convey to the kids that it doesn’t matter where the points come from.”
Izzard and Knox played crucial roles in the Nighthawks victory by winning both their singles and doubles matches. The duo defeated Anderson and Peterson to seal the win for the Nighthawks.
“I just kept reminding myself and my partner of a piece of advice I’d gotten, and that was that there is no such thing as playing good or bad, there is only being focused and unfocused,” said Izzard. “It was a grinding match, and wasn’t the prettiest match, but we got the job done.”
Following their celebrations, the boys headed over to watch the girls team share the same success.
“We knew they had struggled with Catalina Foothills during the year, so we were really proud to watch them win their match,” said Izzard.
Later that evening, both Nighthawks teams were recognized at their school prom for their achievements.