4A-I State Tennis Championships: Foothills literally on a fast track

Boys, girls teams capture state titles with lopsided wins
2011-05-06T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T09:33:10Z 4A-I State Tennis Championships: Foothills literally on a fast trackMichael J. Craven Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 06, 2011 12:00 am  • 

GLENDALE - Before Thursday's 4A-I team state championship match, the top two seniors on the best tennis team in Arizona concocted a plan.

The Nos. 1 and 2 players for Catalina Foothills, Wade Heerboth and Dan Rapcsak, decided they would try to finish their singles matches before any of their teammates.

Given that the Falcons had already gone 3-0 in doubles against Sabino, two singles wins would end the best-of-nine match early.

Think of it like the team tennis version of a walk-off home run.

The plan unfolded similarly to the Falcons last seven seasons: They hit it out of the park.

Rapcsak finished first, beating Sabino's Jackson Lee 6-2, 6-2, and Heerboth closed his out with a 6-0, 6-0 win over the Sabercats' No. 1, James Soper.

The win was the Falcons seventh consecutive team title. The Foothills girls also won at Paseo Racquet Center, beating Phoenix Sunnyslope 5-0 to earn their third straight team title - and 11th in 12 seasons.

The Foothills boys and girls teams each swept their three doubles matches - held before the singles - setting up a situation in which each squad needed just two of six singles matches to claim the championship trophy.

"If you can get all three doubles, it's all but over," Heerboth said. "As long as you don't have a huge mental breakdown, it's done."

For Heerboth, Rapcsak and senior Brandon Anhalt, Thursday was the end of a perfect high school run. In their four years, the Falcons won every team match in which they competed.

With respect to Sabino, Thursday's victory seemed more of a formality than anything. Rapcsak said the match of the year was actually a 6-3 win over Salpointe Catholic in the regular season. The Lancers went on to win the 5A-I team state title.

"I think we are the best team in Arizona," Rapcsak proclaimed. "We beat Salpointe and they won the 5A-I division, which is the highest division.

"That kind of puts us at the top."

The Falcons are certainly on top for now, but that could change.

With the AIA's realignment for all team sports taking effect next season, the situation figures to get tougher.

The Falcons will move into Division II, where they'll face several top-tier teams they are currently unfamiliar with - most notably Ironwood Ridge.

"We'll still be good but it won't be like the last seven years," admitted Foothills coach Robb Salant, citing the realignment, as well as the loss of Heerboth and Rapcsak.

The outlook is slightly brighter for the Foothills girls, who will graduate only No. 3 player Sam Ruth while returning five.

Ruth and junior Zaina Sufi led the Falcons with an 8-3 doubles win Thursday before sophomore Rachana Bhat and freshman Noelle Karp finished their singles matches with wins to end the competition early.

Foothills coach Kristie Stevens said next year's girls schedule is littered with tough, unfamiliar opponents, including perennial 5A-I power Phoenix Xavier and reigning 4A-II champion Scottsdale Notre Dame.

"It's just the idea that we're going to play against tougher teams in the regular season from now on," Stevens said. "My hope is that it will only prepare us for some of the tougher teams we'll face in the postseason.

"We're excited for the challenge."

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