GLENDALE — A Willcox senior doubles duo played above expectations and turned their performance into a fun experience at the state Division III championships last weekend.
Allison Melton and Abby Bull went 8-4 during the regular season as the team’s number one doubles partnership and qualified for state as an unranked duo in the 24-seed tournament, drawing an unknown Gilbert Classical opponent in the first round Friday afternoon.
“As we were warming up with them, I just kind of believed in us a little more; and once we started playing, I felt more comfortable and confident in us,” Melton said.
The Cowgirls raced to a 4-0 lead and nailed the first set, 6-2, before following up with a 6-2 finish for the match.
“We didn’t use all of our energy during that first match, and we didn’t need to, luckily, in that heat,” Bull said.
The victory advanced them Friday night’s second round to face eighth-seed Thatcher, who drew a first-round bye and had defeated Willcox twice during the regular season.
The Cowgirls then shocked their Eagles opponents by racing to a 6-0 victory in the first set of their best two-out-of-three match.
“The weather was much better against Thatcher, so we gave it our all,” Bull said.
Thatcher rallied but blew a 5-3 lead in the second set; and it became knotted at 6-6, forcing a tie-breaker. The Willcox duo prevailed, 7-4, for the two-set sweep.
“That felt really good,” Bull said, “because I don’t think a lot of people thought we could beat Thatcher. It felt really good to prove people wrong, and it felt good to prove Thatcher wrong because they thought they were going to beat us, too.”
“It felt really amazing to beat Thatcher,” Melton agreed.
“I was totally proud of these two girls,” coach John Chapman said. “They exhibited such spirit and tenacity and just blew my mind, to be honest with you. They just did such a wonderful job and played excellent tennis.”
The excellent tennis continued into the third round, but it wasn’t quite enough to upset top-seeded Emma Uhlig and Atlanta Kishbaugh, of Odyssey Institute from Buckeye, who prevailed, 6-2, 6-1.
“We started to believe in ourselves when were up (in games 2-0 early) in that match and had some confidence,” Bull said, “but they just started playing better. We could have been better, but it got away from us.”
“You can always look and see that maybe you could have done better, but at the end of the day, I’m still really proud of us and how we did,” Melton added.
They were the only members of the Willcox team this season to qualify for state under a new, stricter format that limited qualifications, but Chapman has a strong nucleus of returners to help give kids the opportunity to excel.
“We have 20 kids lined up, and it’s looking to be a pretty good lineup already for next year,” Chapman said. “I’m retiring from the school this year, but I told them I would go ahead and continue as coach, but I’m always looking for my replacement.”
Editor’s note: Bull is the daughter of the Range News’ Steve Reno.