PUEBLO - It started with a dizzying array of overhead smashes, a few even clearing the chain-link fences and into the trees at Pueblo City Park.
Lewis-Palmer's No. 3 doubles team of juniors Garrett Rademacher and Isaiah Dawid was in its zone, and up a set Saturday in its quest for a state championship.
"Putting it over the fence is awesome," Dawid said. "It's better when there are no trees in the back so it just goes on and on. I know it's demoralizing when you get a ball put over the fence on you."
Then came the strategy switch by Kent Denver. Then went the dreams of an L-P state title.
Proving that defense can indeed win championships in tennis, the Sun Devils' tandem of Nick Savignano and Coby Gold employed a perfectly played lob strategy to not only keep balls out of the trees, but also to slow the pace and seize momentum, effectively breezing through the final two sets.
Savignano-Gold took the title, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 as part of a championship day for Kent Denver, which also won the team title - its fourth straight and fifth since 2008 - by outscoring Colorado Academy, 82-64.
Niwot finished a distant third with 38 points.
"They were winning and we had no idea who they were," said Gold, a sophomore appearing in his first state final. "We went into the match a little too confident, but we found a way with the lob, and it was working since the guy (Isaiah) couldn't bounce it over us on the overhead. Then we were able to break their serve and take over the match."
After breaking the Rangers' serve only one time in the first set, Kent turned the trick twice in the second set and three more times in the third.
Dawid held serve as Lewis-Palmer took the opening game of the second set, then Kent held, broke at love, then staved off three break points the following game to surge to a 3-1 lead.
The third set followed a similar pattern, this time with a first-game break of Dawid getting things going for Kent, which followed a second break of Dawid to expand the advantage to 4-1.
Lewis-Palmer got one back on a break, but never found its first-set rhythm once Kent changed its look.
"Just like in football, when a team is losing at halftime and they adjust," Rangers coach Paul Kardel said. "They put in different things, and it worked. They went to a lobbing game, and it took us out of the net. Our guys are both very athletic and they destroy around the net. It was tough to overcome, but it doesn't take away from a fantastic season."