Rival sophomores set to meet in regional tennis finals

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Photo - Discovery Canyon's Mattie Kuntzelman (left) and Air Academy's Cori Campbell (Gazette file photos)
Discovery Canyon's Mattie Kuntzelman (left) and Air Academy's Cori Campbell (Gazette file photos)

Discovery Canyon's Mattie Kuntzelman and Air Academy's Cori Campbell continue to thrive in their first year as their team's ace.

The rival sophomores, with their opposite styles, pushed through the semifinals on Day 1 at 4A Region 1 and will meet in the No. 1 singles final on Friday at The Club at Flying Horse.

It will be the third time they will meet in a high school match, again testing Kuntzelman's power against Campbell's ability to keep her opponent on the run.

Kuntzelman beat Campbell their rookie year and eventually won the 4A No. 2 singles title.

Campbell evened the tally on March 17. Kuntzelman had match point in the second set before Campbell rallied to win three straight games and the third set, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4.

"I have to play my own game," Campbell said. "When I adjust it to playing her game that's when she is better. I need to do what I do best."

Campbell punched her ticket to the finals, beating Pine Creek's Julia Trujillo 6-3, 6-3. And Kuntzelman followed a while later after holding off Rampart's Jamie Smith, 6-3, 7-6 (6-3).

Kuntzelman, who again struggled to close a match that was seemingly in hand, lost a 4-1 lead in the second set. But this time, the defending No. 2 singles champ regained her arsenal late in the match in a performance that was more than good enough to advance.

"It's just important that I stay aggressive," Kuntzelman said of it. "I just need to focus and not let my mind wander."

A peculiar situation would've arisen if Kuntzelman hadn't been able to hold off Smith.

Smith says she can't play at the 4A state tournament because it conflicts with her International Baccalaureate exams. Meaning, if Smith beats Trujillo in playbacks on Friday, and Kuntzelman beats Campbell, Smith will play Campbell for a spot in a tournament she can't attend anyway.

"I'm going to try to make it," Smith said. "It's been my goal and just to say that I made state would be amazing."

Discovery Canyon is one of three area schools that hosted a tennis regional on Thursday.

With Day 1 matches at the Thunder's school courts and Flying Horse, Discovery Canyon leads the six-team tournament with a score of 39. Air Academy is second with 33, followed by Pine Creek (32), Rampart (20), Liberty (1) and Sand Creek (1).

"Instead of driving an hour up to Denver it's been wonderful to play here," Discovery Canyon coach Brian Thirkell said. "It's been amazing, I think."

All finals matches are at Flying Horse on Friday and will begin at 9 a.m.