CA Girls Win First-Ever Class 3A Tennis State Championship

In what was at times a grueling battle, the Colorado Academy Girls Varsity Tennis Team clinched the program’s first-ever Class 3A State Championship by narrowly defeating Vail Christian High School 4-3 at Denver Tennis Park on May 14, 2024. The matchup came down to the wire as the two schools notched alternating wins throughout the afternoon, leapfrogging each other for the lead. CA’s No. 4 doubles pair of Juniors Emily Archie and Bea Wadsworth finally gritted out their three-set victory to secure the title at the very end of the day.

From left, Bea Wadsworth and Emily Archie celebrate their critical win.

According to Head Coach Noah Tondre, in his first year with the girls squad, it was toughness that made the difference for this team, with three three-set matches helping to determine the outcome. After grabbing their surprise semifinal win May 7 over No. 1 seed D’Evelyn High School in a long, windy, and late series of matches, says Tondre, “Everyone started to believe they could do it.”

From left, coaches Michael and Nancy Hollowell, Head Coach Noah Tondre, and Bob Ulrich

Not even CA’s Prom, held May 11, or the start of final exams the day before the Championship could sidetrack the girls’ determination.

“I’m not sure what I expected with everything going on, but when they showed up off the bus at Tennis Park, everyone was ready to go—hair done, bags packed. Our No. 4 doubles player, Emily, was probably the most nervous of anyone, but she was pumped, just like we all were. It felt good to be there.”

From left, No. 1 doubles players Anna Johnson and Violet Tetzeli during team introductions

A dominating straight-sets performance by CA’s No. 1 singles star, Ninth Grader Mira Leon, along with a trio of gutsy stands by the No. 1 doubles team of Anna Johnson and Violet Tetzeli, No. 2 doubles players Storm Bearley and Josie Hicks, and Archie and Wadsworth all required CA to peak at just the right time, says Tondre.

Mira Leon, No. 1 singles

“For me, the whole point of our season is getting better each match,” Tondre explains, “and, hopefully, peaking at the culmination of everything. I preach a lot about mental toughness; the girls probably get sick of me. I always tell them, ‘No BCDs allowed’—no blaming, complaining, or defending. Let’s be present and get rid of negative thoughts. At the end, I think they finally got to a place where that positive approach just made them stronger than their opponent.”

And attitude is a critical differentiator for a school of CA’s size, which plays next door to schools like Cherry Creek High School, whose tennis rosters count as many players as the entire population of the Upper School. “It’s tough, because so many people play tennis in Colorado,” acknowledges Tondre. “So being able to compete at a high level has been awesome.”

From left, Storm Bearley and Josie Hicks, No. 2 doubles

The support of CA’s Athletics Department has also been a factor, adds Tondre, with Athletic Director and avid tennis player Jon Hill taking a keen interest in the growth of the program. “Jon and Assistant Athletic Director Hunter Worthley are really a dream team for CA.”

Athletic Director Jon Hill takes home the Championship trophy.

Veteran Girls Tennis Coach Bob Ulrich came back from retirement this season to help the team’s progress, too, focusing especially on No. 4 doubles. His work with the girls may well have made the difference for Archie and Wadsworth after they split sets in their matches with D’Evelyn and Vail Christian, coming back to win both contests in a decisive final set.

Ulrich with the No. 4 doubles team

Still, “There are no expectations when we go into these matches,” Tondre says. “All we’re here to do is play our best, whatever that is on a given day.”

Before taking on Vail Christian, Tondre shared a video message he received from Anna Jordaan ’23, CA’s standout at No. 1 singles for three years who earned two individual State Championships and went on to play tennis for the U.S. Naval Academy. In it, Jordaan told the girls, “You’re going to be nervous on the big stage tomorrow; you might not play great. But whatever you have on the day, give all of it.”

Leadership is a big part of what all CA student-athletes give when they take the field, and tennis is no exception. Tondre names Senior co-captains Abby Cohen, Avia Lauchli, and Violet Tetzeli as critical sources of positive energy for the entire squad, but especially for the younger players, including Sophomore Aliza Kirkpatrick at No. 3 singles and Ninth Grader Elise Yang, Cohen’s partner at No. 3 doubles.

From left, co-captains Abby Cohen, Violet Tetzeli, and Avia Lauchli

“It can be difficult to have a Senior playing alongside a newcomer, but Abby really helped Elise, and their win against D’Evelyn in the semifinals was a big part of the reason we got to the finals.” For her part, says Tondre, Tetzeli didn’t miss a single day of practice. “These co-captains were always smiling.”

And, like Jordaan before her, Leon at No. 1 singles is already in the region’s top ranks, with three more years to compete for the Mustangs. “She’s so modest; the biggest thing I’m working on with her is getting her to believe she’s as good as she is.”

Belief and fun: Says Tondre, “Without those two things, it’s pretty much impossible to get better at anything.”