Before he became coach of the Coronado girls' tennis team, Tyler Philipsen had a vision.
On Thursday, the first-year Cougars coach will see his vision come to life when all four of his doubles teams and a singles player begin competition at the Class 4A state tennis tournament at Pueblo City Park.
"That's why I wanted to take over the program," said Philipsen, who coached high school tennis in Iowa before coming to the city's west side before the 2015-16 season to teach English and video production and mentor the boys' tennis program at Coronado. "Watching last year, I saw a lot of potential. I just knew if I had a chance to work with them, we'd probably get more positions at state, and that came to fruition."
One year ago, only the doubles team of then-juniors Logan Baumberger and Sydney Coen made it through regionals and into the state tournament. That was when Coronado competed in 5A.
Upon reclassification into a smaller class, Philipsen had big goals. Baumberger did, too.
"We always believed in him," said Baumberger, part of the No. 3 doubles team with sophomore Connie Sun. "We knew he was going to be the coach who would work us hard at practice and do what it would take to make those achievements. None of us had any doubts that he was being unrealistic. We actually did what we wanted to do."
At last week's 4A Region 6 tournament at Cheyenne Mountain, Coronado stepped into uncharted waters as an unprecedented number of players advanced into the final day of competition.
Each of the doubles teams fell to Cheyenne Mountain in the finals, earning state berths. No. 2 singles player Bethany Heitland ousted Lewis-Palmer's Joee Crocker in a three-set thriller in a state playback to extend her season an extra week.
To get there, Coronado had to turn the tables on Lewis-Palmer, which had defeated the Cougars 5-2 in a dual match earlier in the season.
By the end of the season, the Cougars beat the Rangers in five of seven matches when it mattered the most.
"They are just a strong group, and they played very strong in doubles," Lewis-Palmer coach Paul Kardel said. "I would definitely watch for them in 4A."
For this year, Philipsen had to inquire about the distant past.
There wasn't any tradition. He can only hope this version of Cougars starts one.
"In talking to people, no one can remember when we had more than one position at state, and that's going back 15 years," Philipsen said. "What we're doing this week is kind of unprecedented. We're not just happy to be here. We have a shot at winning matches and scoring points. We have eight players coming back next year, so our expectations for the future are pretty high."