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4A GIRLS TENNIS: Palo Verde downs Coronado in state final to capture three-peat

RENO — As they gathered for photos with the trophy after winning their third consecutive state championship, Palo Verde girls tennis players traded lots of laughs, smiles and good-natured bards.

But there were some tears mixed in, too, especially for Alissa Till and Abby Lewis.

Palo Verde defeated Coronado 13-5 on Friday afternoon at the Caughlin Athletic Club to complete an undefeated season with a three-peat.

Seniors Till and Lewis have been a part of each of the three championships.

“It’s sad that this is the end, but it’s a good way to go out,” Till said.

Till and sophomore Shelby Graber each went 3-0 in singles, while Lewis and her partner Kaya Richardson went 3-0 in doubles to key the victory for Palo Verde.

“I didn’t think we’d let it slip with how much we wanted it this year,” Graber said.

In an attempt to neutralize Palo Verde’s advantage in doubles, Coronado moved Niloketa Nokoloff, who had gone 3-0 in singles in Thursday’s semifinal win over Reno, and Hannah Grossman, who was 2-1 Thursday, into doubles. Each player went 1-2, with Nikoloff pairing with Brooke Gibson and Grossman with Megan Balmer.

“At first we were kind of happy because we have those two real good doubles teams,” Palo Verde coach Zach Brandt said. “We just kind of stuck with our game plan. When you have a game plan, the kids are used to it.”

Instead of the 8 or 9 points Brandt was hoping to get from doubles, Palo Verde got 6. But Till and Graber picked up the slack, and Brandt cited Till’s 6-0 win over Sophia Potamitis in the first round as a big momentum swing.

Leading 4-2 after the first round, Palo Verde took five of six matches in the second round to lead 9-3.

“At one point, us coaches were all talking and we didn’t want it to flip and go 2-4,” Brandt said. “Those were all close matches and somehow we squeaked them out and got five.”

With only three players on the team who were part of the first two championships, Till said the older players have taken it upon themselves to make sure the younger players understand the program’s standard.

“They need to be in a state championship mindset,” she said. “Now the freshmen have got a taste of what it’s like to win, and they’ll pass that on to next year’s freshmen.”

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