The season is over for the Shadow Ridge girls tennis team, a year in which the Stallions made their first state tournament and amassed a 16-0 record heading into the semifinals.
“On any given day any of these teams can pull it out,” Shadow Ridge Coach Alex Elledge said. “Very good matchups, very competitive, it just didn’t work out for us today. I’m super proud of the girls. They had an amazing season, and we look forward to working some more next year.”
The Stallions lost to Benson High School May 7 by a 5-3 score. The No. 7 Tigers wound up winning the Division III title, surpassing the top three teams, including No. 3 Shadow Ridge.
However, the Stallions’ season was an accomplishment in itself. As before, they appeared in the state tourney for the first time. They were 10-4 the previous two years but didn’t compete in the postseason. Up until the Benson match, the team’s closest contest this season points-wise was a 5-4 win against Northland Preparatory Academy in April.
The improvement factor is not lost on coach Elledge.
“This has been our best season so far,” he said. “We’ve been building the last couple years. We were 16-0 coming into this one so it’s been a big improvement. We’re getting better every single year.”
Junior Steffi Karki is the lead girl at No. 1 singles. She lost her match Saturday in three sets, but said the team’s season was awesome.
“Every one of the girls worked their butts off,” Karki said. “Practice is not easy for us. We just go for it. If one of us has to run, we all have to run. We all do it together. It’s teamwork.”
Seniors Eunice Barrameda and Shelby Nelson played their final matches as Stallions on Saturday. Their graduations leave two spots open for next year, however, their leadership and presence will be missed.
“They’re like our two moms,” junior Karki said. “They’re the glue to our team. Eunice she’s always like that motherly vibe. She’s so nice, kind, and her laugh. We always hear someone laugh and we’re like ‘Oh, that’s Eunice.’ And then there’s Shelby, her awesome nails and we’re like ‘That’s awesome.’ I will never forget about them.”
For Barrameda, playing for Shadow Ridge was her first foray into tennis. She started out at No. 6 on junior varsity but topped out at No. 3 on varsity. Nelson was tops in JV and competed at No. 5 singles this year. They paired up and advanced to the top 16 in the state doubles tournament.
“It just takes a lot of practice, Barrameda said. “Our coaches and everyone always tells us that half of the game is your skill and the other half is your mentality. So we’ve just been growing in both parts.”
As seniors, they said they try to maintain a lively spirit within the team. Barrameda is the vice president for Shadow Ridge’s student council, and when events come up, she invites her teammates to go as a group and show their support. They always chant “Hooves up” during matches.
“If it’s too serious you lose a lot of fun,” Nelson said. “If you want to be serious, it’s hard to balance that. You just try to have fun. We made it this far by having fun.”
After graduation, both girls will attend the University of Arizona, with plans to play either club or intramural tennis.
Next season, Elledge said he wants to see the team improve its footwork and play at the net. All in all, the Stallions’ 2016 performance was one to remember.
“It’s a good group of girls,” Elledge said. “They all get along. We’ll be mentoring some of our JV players. I hope they keep playing like they did this year. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”