It took some time for Lauren Hayes to adjust to playing in Colorado’s higher elevation, but the Hill twins have been playing doubles together for so long they can adapt quickly.
Hayes, a sophomore No. 1 singles player at Mountain Vista, moved to Colorado from Salem, Oregon, and on June 2 captured the Region 5 state qualifying tournament with a tough three-set win over Arapahoe’s Julia Rydel.
Nicole and Eliza Hill, seniors at Cherry Creek, had it much easier in taking the No. 1 doubles title in the Region 1 tournament on June 1 and lost only one game in two straight-set victories.
The Hills will carry a 12-0 record into the Class 5A state tournament which will be June 11-12 at the Gates Tennis Center.
Hayes kept a majority of her shots in play but it wasn’t an easy victory as her grit and determination helped her pull out a win in the match that has more momentum changes than winning volleys. Hayes claimed the regional title with a 7-6, 6-7, 6-3 triumph.
“I came here in December, and it took me to February to get fully adjusted to the different altitude,” said Hayes. “My ground strokes seem to go a lot farther and with the spin I put on the ball, I need to put more spin on because it seems the shots are going long a lot. I definitely need to work on that.
“I’ve played really well and I’ve really connected with my team which I like a lot. I really like the atmosphere we’ve played in. So far this season, it’s been very good.”
Hayes was down 1-3 in the first set tiebreaker but rallied to win 7-5. She had a 5-1 advantage in the second set tiebreaker but Rydel pulled out an 8-6 win. Hayes prevailed in the deciding third set.
More of the same type of close matches probably will be ahead in the state tournament.
“I will try to go in with a certain level of confidence in my game, know that what I do I think works,” she said. “I just go for everything. I try to stay calm when I play,”
Hayes displays a lot of emotion in her matches and often talks to herself but most of the comments from the Hills are with each other.
The Hills won the regional crown with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Columbine’s Liz Gentry and Liz Phillips.
Doubles in tennis requires partners to encourage and trust each other, and it is an advantage to know your partner.
Eliza won the No. 2 singles state title in 2018, and Nicole captured the 2018 championship at No. 3 singles. Eliza suffered a concussion playing basketball and both sisters skipped the 2019 campaign so it has been two seasons since the sisters played high school tennis.
“It is definitely easier playing with my sister,” said Nicole. “I absolutely love playing with her because we just have such a good relationship. We know what to tell each other during a match. We know how to lift each other up or to test each other about strategy.”
“We really understand each other well and it makes for a really good partnership,” she added. “Sometimes we’re not immune to arguing. The good thing is we know how to get back to what is important. Our arguments don’t last very long.”
The state tournament this year has been trimmed from three days to two which means semifinal and championship matches will be played back-to-back on June 12.
“We’re not going to underestimate any of our opponents,” said Eliza. “We’re going to play our hardest and our best. As the competition gets tougher we will get tougher too.”
Cherry Creek, which won the 2019 state title before COVID canceled last spring’s state tourney, qualified players in three singles and four doubles categories as the Bruins will be seeking their 37th girls state tennis championship.
The Bruins aren’t the only team that will have a full squad of players at the state meet.
Fairview, Legacy, Mountain Vista, Arapahoe, Fossil Ridge, Ralston Valley and Poudre also qualified 11 players for the state tournament, and Valor Christian will have 10 players competing at state.