Annie Walker’s freshman season at Palo Verde was full of close calls.
Walker finished as the runnerup in girls singles in both the Sunset Region and Division I state tournaments and saw her Panther team fall in the state final to Bishop Gorman.
Step one of Walker’s redemption tour took place Monday.
Walker gutted through a 6-4, 7-5 win over Gorman’s Amber Del Rosario in the Sunset final at Darling Tennis Center.
“This feels amazing, and I’m just so happy that I pulled out,” Walker said.
Del Rosario, who wears down her opponents by returning seemingly everything, made Walker earn the win.
After Walker claimed the first set, Del Rosario struck back with an early break of serve in the second set.
Del Rosario still led 4-2 in the second set before Walker broke serve in an epic seventh game that lasted nearly 15 minutes.
Walker used that momentum to even the set and finally take the lead with another service break at 6-5. She held serve for the win.
“Amber played a great match. She persevered and just kept the ball in,” Walker said. “She made it very hard.”
Walker will vie for state titles in both the team and individual competition this week in Reno. The state tournament begins Thursday.
In the boys singles final, Desert Oasis sophomore Ben Gajardo spent more than two hours trading hard groundstrokes, fist pumps and shouts of encouragement with Palo Verde’s Rhett Bossung.
Finally, Gajardo found a last burst of energy to push him across the finish line.
Gajardo, the region runner-up last season, outlasted Bossung, 6-3, 1-6, 7-6(3) in a singles final that was as competitive and entertaining as it was contentious.
Gajardo, who at one point, dropped eight of nine games, recovered to build a 5-3 lead in the third set.
“I was striking the ball pretty well early, but in the second set, he started to take more control,” Gajardo said. “He was making better returns, and I couldn’t keep up with him.
“In the third set, I just had to make sure I held serve and stick with my routine.”
Bossung held serve for 5-4, then broke serve with the match on the line to pull even.
Both players held serve to force a tiebreaker, in which Gajardo took a 2-1 lead on a disputed point that Bossung felt he won.
Bossung won the next point, but Gajardo strung together four straight points to build a 6-2 lead before closing out the match when Bossung’s forehand return sailed long.
“It wasn’t easy for anybody,” Gajardo said. “I just had to make sure nothing bothered me. I couldn’t let my opponent get into my head.”
Palo Verde sisters Chloe and Sophie Henderson successfully defended their girls doubles region title with a 6-0, 6-1 win over Gorman’s Emma Figueredo and Monika Ryan.
The Henderson sisters also won the state title last year.
Gorman’s Sam Sholeff and Skylar Davidson outlasted Palo Verde’s Conor Safbom and Brandon Sulzberg in the boys doubles final, 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-4. Safbom and Sulzberg finished third in the region last year.