Tennis requires intense mental focus to play at the highest level. Distractions often prove costly.
Timpview’s No. 2 doubles team, composed of junior Anna Fellers and sophomore Maddie Austin, was faced with one of the biggest tests of their concentration that is possible in high school girls tennis.
It was Saturday afternoon at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City in the 5A state tournament. Fellers and Austin had won through to the championship match, where they faced the Woods Cross duo of senior Jenna Hinkle and freshman Payton Kossin.
The real drama came with the luck of the draw.
On the next court over was the No. 2 singles final between Olympus senior Kate Longson and Highland sophomore Sophie Hastings.
The Thunderbirds and Titans were locked in a dramatic battle for the team title with neither able to gain much separation. As the rest of the matches finished up, it became clear that both Timpview and Olympus were tied atop the leaderboard with 12 points each.
It all came down to what happened in those final matches that were going on side-by-side — and both went to three sets.
“It was a lot of pressure,” Fellers said. “Having the other match right there added a lot of stress.”
The Thunderbird coaching staff tried to downplay the significance of the moment for Timpview’s title hopes.
“I went out and told them that this was their moment, that they had worked too hard to let it slip away,” T’Bird coach Joseph Venoza said. “I told them to get aggressive and never let up.”
Austin said the Timpview pair faced a crucial turning point after losing the second set.
“We had to reset, say the last set didn’t matter,” she said. “We were going to try our best and not think about it.”
The Thunderbird doubles team did just that, rolling in the final frame to secure the 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 win.
“I’ve never felt so much relief,” Austin said. “It feels so good.”
Fellers added: “It still feels like a dream. I can’t even process it.”
The end result was that both Timpview and Olympus won their final matches, giving the two schools a tie for the 5A team championship.
“Our girls played tough,” Timpview coach Amber Callister said. “They were awesome throughout the tournament. They played really well.”
She talked about how four of the Thunderbird teams reached the semifinals, despite some challenges.
Thunderbird junior Gwen Bryson, for example, had a hip injury but never gave up and forced Hastings to three sets in the semifinal.
Timpview sophomore Avery Pope reached the finals in No. 3 singles, while seniors Lucy Collins and Jamie Faux made it to the championship in No. 1 doubles before losing.
With all of the success, the Thunderbirds were able to celebrate with their first state title since 2013.
“This was our goal from the beginning of the season,” Timpview coach Gretchen Knell said. “We did what we set out to do and we are state champs.”
The Thunderbirds are optimistic about the future, since they have just two seniors on the roster this year.
“Hopefully we can do it again,” Callister said. “Maybe next time we can get it to be ours alone.”