Going to the Class 5A state tennis tournament is nothing new for Doherty's Kylie Simons. However, qualifying for state as a No. 1 singles player is uncharted territory for both Simons and her school.
With three impressive wins and a regional title on Doherty's home court last weekend, Simons became the first Spartan in the program's history to make it to state as a No. 1 singles player.
"It makes it more special because nobody has ever made it to state as the No. 1 singles from our school," Simons said. "It's really exciting and it makes me feel really good because I put a lot of hard work and effort into it, and seeing that pay off is nice."
Simons entered the regional as the third-ranked No. 1 singles player in the bracket. She emerged as the clear-cut top player, losing only one set in her three matches.
She defeated Chaparral's Sydney Nelson 6-0, 6-2 in the quarterfinals before battling back from a tough first set to beat Castle View's Shannon Hickey 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the semifinals. Her 6-1, 6-2 win over Ponderosa's Lauren Lindell in the finals not only sent her to state, but gave her a measure of revenge.
"I lost to Lauren in a three-set tie-break at the Pueblo West tournament earlier this season, and that first match helped me to beat her the second time around," Simons said. "Playing at home had a huge impact and having classmates and teammates watching and cheering me on picked me up when I needed it."
Simons is the only 5A No. 1 singles player from the area who will be playing at the Gates Tennis Center in Denver on May 8. When she takes the court, she won't just be playing for herself and her school, but also her sister, Reagan.
The previous four seasons, Doherty coach Cheri Rogers coached Reagan, who came close to being the first Spartans No. 1 singles player to reach state last year as a senior. Rogers says that Kylie learned from watching her sister, and Kylie's time is now.
"Kylie has been our No. 2 player for two years and a lot of opposing coaches have said that she was as good as a lot of the No. 1 players," Rogers said. "She's so deserving of this, and has worked very hard, and I'm so happy for her. She waited patiently for her sister to graduate, and now it's her turn to step up."
Simons credits Reagan for much of her success.
"She's helped me tremendously, and it's been hard without her this year and not having someone to hit with," Simons said of her older sister, who attends TCU. "I look up to her as a person and everything she's done in tennis. I called her after every match and she would text me good luck before every match and really supported me."
Rogers sees many similarities in Kylie's game as she saw in her older sister's.
"They both have an outstanding work ethic, they both do what they have to do to prepare for all of their matches, not just the big ones," Rogers said. "Reagan was always cool, calm and collected, and Kylie has gotten to the point that she doesn't let things bother her and it's shown with how good of a record she has the last few years."