Palmer Ridge sophomore Tessa Rothwell was not the least bit nervous during her magical run to the Class 4A No. 3 singles state tennis championship. Her mother could not make that claim, however.
Watching intently as her daughter got stronger with each match, Anita Rothwell was the most anxious during Tessa’s semifinals match against Air Academy junior Mackie Tate Tygart. Earlier this spring, Tygart defeated Rothwell in the Region 1 championship match.
“Mackie kept running down everything Tessa hit (at regionals) and was getting it back,” said Anita, a match teacher at Palmer Ridge. “But Tessa was playing a different game (at state), slicing it and making her work a little harder.
“Once Tessa got through that match and made it to finals, I was calmed down. I was actually pretty relaxed.”
Tessa faced Golden’s Anastasia Outekhine in the finals, defeating her in straight sets — 6-0, 6-0 — to win the first title in the history of the school’s boys or girls programs.
“My only goal was to make it to state,” Tessa said. “It wasn’t to do well.
“I just played really well because I wasn’t stressed at all. I was relaxed. I had nothing to lose.”
Tessa had to knock off another familiar foe in the quarterfinals, Cheyenne Mountain senior Ariana Arenson, who defeated Tessa during the regular season in a Pikes Peak Athletic Conference Tournament. Arenson was a 2018 state finalist and a favorite to win it all this spring.
The rematch was quite different. Tessa dropped the opening match 7-6, but came back strong to win the next two sets 7-5, 6-4.
“Tessa definitely gained momentum as she went through the tournament,” said Palmer Ridge coach Skip Wells. “Her confidence blossomed after that win over Ariana.”
Tessa celebrated her state championship by hugging her father, Mike, and then eating a team meal at Pei Wei and topping that off with Cold Stone ice cream.
When Tessa wasn’t playing a match, she kept herself busy by cheering on her teammates. Palmer Ridge finished fourth as a team.
“I just tried to stay calm the whole time,” said Tessa, who started taking tennis seriously as a sixth grader. “It was exciting for me to see my teammates do well.”
This year’s state tournament was Tessa’s second as a player and fifth overall. She took third place in No. 2 doubles as a freshman in 2018. Three other times, she cheered on her older sister, Kyra — a 2018 graduate — during state tournament play. Kyra’s best finish at state was fourth place in No. 3 singles as a sophomore.