DIVISION I TENNIS: Palo Verde girls at full strength, cruise into final against Gorman

Palo Verde’s girls tennis team hadn’t had its starting lineup intact in more than two weeks.

It didn’t stop the Panthers from advancing to the Division I state tournament.

And with its top nine in the lineup Thursday, Palo Verde easily moved one step closer to defending the state title it won last year.

Palo Verde swept the first two rounds on the way to a 17-1 win over Liberty (11-2) in a state semifinal at Darling Tennis Center. The Panthers (13-1) will face Bishop Gorman (12-2) for the title at 11 a.m. today.

Annie Walker was sidelined with bronchitis, and teammate Sophie Henderson missed the final two days of the Sunset Region tournament while playing in an out-of-state tournament.

Back in the lineup Thursday, both players made Palo Verde’s already solid lineup even deeper.

“With Sophie and Annie back, all of the girls were excited to know that someone had their back, someone else will get another point,” Palo Verde coach Zach Brandt said. “When we didn’t have them, the girls were very stressed out. They’re just rock solid players.”

Sophie Henderson, Chloe Henderson and Kristen Newell combined to lose just one game in the first two rounds.

The doubles teams of Isabella Shelton and Abby Lewis, Walker and Alissa Till, and Shelby Graber and Kaya Richardson dropped only five games in the first two sets as the Panthers took a 12-0 lead.

Gorman breezed to an 13-5 win over Douglas (14-1) in the other semifinal.

Sofia Nuno and Karissa Matthews were 3-0 in doubles, and Amber Del Rosario and Angelique Friedrich each went 2-0 in singles for the Gaels, who have won eight of the past 10 state titles but did not advance to state last year.

Gorman, which defeated Palo Verde to win the 2013 state crown, started six freshmen Thursday.

“We did it with a young crew, and they played well,” Gorman coach Gordon Hammond said. “A lot of stuff can’t be explained to them until they actually go out and experience it.”


Gorman and Palo Verde also will meet for the boys title at 11 a.m. today after both teams won convincingly.

The Gaels, seeking their first state title since 1990, ended Coronado’s run of seven straight appearances in the state final by turning back the Cougars 15-3.

Gorman (14-1) swept the nine doubles sets, as the teams of Sam Sholeff and Michael Connors, Cole Davidson and Lucas Hammond, and Skylar Davidson and Grant Rogers each went 3-0.

“We knew that Coronado had two really good singles players, and they could potentially get six points,” Gorman coach Craig Witcher said. “If we didn’t win at least seven or eight of the doubles, it was going to be a tight match. The score isn’t indicative of how close it was.”

Aaron Bailey was 3-0 in singles for the Gaels, who led 9-3 after two rounds.

Ryland McDermott was 2-0 in singles for the Cougars (11-3).

The defending champion Panthers rolled to leads of 5-1 after one round and 11-1 after two in a 13-5 win over Reno.

“If you can get past the nerves of the first round, the boys usually play a little better,” Brandt said. “But the boys had a great first round, and that made it easier.”

Dylan Levitt and Ethan Ballard each went 2-0 in singles, and the doubles teams of Mike Safbom and Sam Soderborg, Davis Waid and Brandon Sulzberg, and Mitchell Rathbun and Hayden Huckfeldt all went 2-0 for Palo Verde.

“The consistency level right now is at its peak, and that’s what you want to see,” Brandt said.

— Contact reporter Bartt Davis at or 702-387-5230.

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