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Pine Creek freshman Kalhorn takes second in 5A No. 1 singles
DENVER – A story of redemption closed the book on Nicole Kalhorn’s fairy tale.
The Pine Creek freshman dropped jaws at the 5A state tournament at No. 1 singles but she finally lost in the finals to last year’s runner-up Kelli Woodman of Cherry Creek, 6-2, 7-5.
An unintimidated Kalhorn faced a friend in Woodman under the sad-looking clouds that pushed the finals up to Friday from Saturday.
The Cherry Creek junior blew a lead in the2011 5A finals to Loveland’s Jennifer Weissmann, but she wouldn’t repeat her misfortunes this time around at the Gates Tennis Center.
“I knew I had to just stay focused throughout,” said Woodman who beat Weissmann in the semis. “Nicole made it hard on me though.”
Kalhorn and Woodman played twice before Friday and both of those matches went three sets of three hours with each girl winning one. And after the two won their third match in this year’s 5A tournament, neither losing a single set, they faced each other again.
Woodman struck first as she came out smoking, winning 6-2 in the first set.
“I started off slow again like I have in most of these matches here,” Kalhorn said. “But against (Woodman), I couldn’t get going.”
On day one, Kalhorn said she loved being the underdog as she was the only freshman in No. 1 singles play. Her soft voice and big game torched through the competition beating Boulder’s Miguela Newhart 6-3, 6-2, Grand Junction Central’s Aimee Basinski 6-3, 6-0 and finally Fairview’s Monica Li in semis 6-1, 6-2.
Then, already down a set to Woodman, Kalhorn struck back to take a 3-1 lead in the second.
“She’s amazing, you can never tell if she’s winning or losing out there,” Woodman said. “I remember one shot I had and I was for sure I was going to get the point and she hit it back and took it. I was like ‘Nicole!’
“We both laughed.”
From there the volley and the games went back-and-forth. Woodman took the next three games to make it 4-3 before Kalhorn took a lead at 5-4.
But in the 10th game of the set, the freshman momentarily lost her focus.
“I got a little ahead of myself and started thinking what I needed to do after the game,” said Kalhorn, about Woodman tying it at five.
From there, Woodman squeaked out the 11th game and had a double-match point chance in the 12th.
On chance one, Kalhorn survived as she crossed a backhand winner past Woodman’s racket. But then, on chance two, Woodman sent a forehand out of the freshman’s reach to end it.
As the two exchanged hugs, spectators and coaches alike said they didn’t want this to be the pair’s last meeting.
Kalhorn said she’ll “probably” be back for her sophomore season and forgo the national tournament, which conflicts with the 2013 5A tournament.
And the junior champion hopes she will -- she’d love to face her in the finals once more before Kalhorn might be alone at the top of the 5A ranks.
“I hope we can do this next year,” Woodman said. “I’m ready for it.”
The Eagles were the only area school to get any players past the first round (No. 1 singles, No. 2 singles, No. 1 doubles) while Doherty and Rampart lost all their first-round matches.