It took a while, but the Coconino Panthers girls tennis squad eventually gutted out a close win, 5-4, over the Estrella Foothills Wolves Thursday to win their home opener.
The Panthers, who had earned back-to-back 9-0 wins in their first two matches of the season, had to wait to see what their top two singles players could do in their matches before taking their third victory in as many tries.
In the No. 2 spot, Olivia Larson controlled the ups and downs of her match with Estrella’s Lily Serbin, winning 6-1, 6-3 and giving the Panthers a 4-all tie after falling behind 4-3. In the final match of the day, nearly three hours after the start of the Division II matchup, Coconino’s Emma Walker outlasted Hannah Archer, 6-4, 6-2, at No. 1.
Walker and Archer were locked on deuce for much of the second set until Archer had two-straight miscues to give Walker and Coconino the win.
“She has a lot of potential and she plays hard,” Panthers assistant coach Tess Rhoton said. “A lot of girls have shown a lot more aggression this year. They all are playing a lot more aggressively, and they are really going for that final point and the kill shot more than they did last year.”
Also earning a win in singles was Panthers No. 4 seed Taylor Rhoton, who took a 6-2, 6-3 win over Niki O’Brien. Rounding out the singles victories for Coconino was the Panthers' No. 6, Hannah Goodman, who had to go into three sets to beat her opponent. Goodman took the win 6-4, 4-6, 12-10 in a marathon match over Madison Fisher.
On the other side of the win column in singles for Coconino was Connor Garrod, Coconino’s No. 3, who fell to Eva Serbin 6-2, 6-3 while Coconino’s No. 5 seed Angel Begay lost 6-1, 6-1 to Abby Gutwein.
The Panthers were able to snag just one win in doubles, as Coconino’s No. 1 doubles pairing of Larson and Walker took an 8-1 result over Lily Serbin and Eva Serbin.
Coconino’s No. 2 doubles squad Garrod and Taylor Rhoton fell 8-3 to Archer and Gutwein while the Panthers' No. 3 pairing of Begay and Goodman lost 8-2 to O’Brien and Fisher.
“Even though we won fairly easily on Tuesday there was a lot of good rallies, they really rallied a lot,” Tess Rhoton said of the start to the year. “But, just coming out and practicing everyday and making sure the girls are focused on each little individual thing they need to improve on. … On Tuesday we struggled with, maybe, making our opponents move more. We worked on that and they definitely did that better today.”
The Panthers have had to find a way to replace the production of last season’s No. 1 Faith Daab, who ended the year third at state. Spearheading the help to replace Daab’s production is Walker, who is just a sophomore.
“She has a lot of potential and she plays hard,” Tess Rhoton said.
The Panthers will travel to the Valley to take on the Moon Valley Rockets on Monday.