One by one Friday, Cheyenne Mountain punched tickets to the 4A state girls' tennis finals in the three singles categories and the first three doubles divisions with relative ease.
Then the No. 4 doubles match provided enough drama for all seven, and ended in an historic day for the Indians at Pueblo City Park.
The team of Megan Dibble and Elizabeth Stagnaro blew a 5-0 lead in the decisive third set, then staved off match point twice and eventually claimed victory in a tiebreaker, giving Cheyenne Mountain an entry in all of Saturday's finals for the first time since 1991.
By winning all 21 of its matches in the tournament's first two days, Cheyenne Mountain already clinched its fifth straight 4A state team title and 18th overall since the program started in 1970. The Indians racked up 77 points, nearly double that of Kent Denver, its nearest competitor at 40.
'I had to keep my composure, ' said Stagnaro, whose sister, Katie, won doubles state titles four times (2009-12). 'I had to stay calm and go through my strokes like I usually do. When we were down 5-6, my whole leg was shaking at that point. That was pretty intense. '
In the first two days of the tournament Cheyenne Mountain dropped only two sets, both in No. 4 doubles. In both cases, Dibble and Stagnaro rallied from a second-set loss to pull through in the end.
'No. 4 doubles is always an exciting match, ' said Indians substitute coach Doug Kretzinger, taking the helm while longtime coach Dave Adams was attending the college graduation of his son, John, in Illinois. 'When you're up 5-0, it means nothing. You've got to get that last game, and it's so elusive. They battled, rallied and did well. '
In Friday's semifinal against Niwot's Alicia DeSciplo and Janie Sieben, the Indians duo raced to a 6-3 win in the first set, only to see the tables turned just as fast with a 6-1 verdict in the second. Dibble and Stagnaro then won the first five games of the third set, with victory so close they could taste it.
In an amazing turnaround, Niwot's team took the next six games, then led 40-15 on serve with two chances to prevent Cheyenne Mountain's perfect run to the finals. A Dibble smash and a double fault evened the game at deuce, and the Indians then broke serve to tie the match at 6-6. They never trailed in the tiebreaker, winning 7-3, the final point on a Niwot double fault.
'That would have been hard to have had everyone else in the finals except us, ' Dibble said. 'When it turns like that, you still have to stay positive and encourage each other. We just had to remember that it's just tennis, and win or lose, we're here to have fun. '
The match, the last to be completed in the championship side of the bracket, drew quite the crowd. Members from both teams made their way to the far east side of the 17-court complex, cheering each other on through several momentum swings.
There were no such swings during the previous six Indians semifinals matches. Kalyssa Hall, at No. 1 singles, breezed to a pair of straight-set victories, as did Payton Fielding and Daniela Adamsczyk at No. 2 and No. 3 singles, respectively.
The No. 1 doubles team of Lauran Renjard and Jessica Metz lost only four games, just as many as the teams of Lara Walden and Allison Lynch and Caroline Fitzhugh and Tory Louis.