Senior Cody Petford says Ironwood Ridge's "top three players are tournament players."


Ironwood Ridge's tennis teams made history last year, by sweeping the boys and girls team state titles for the first time.

This season, the Nighthawks are hoping to do the same.

Both squads know archrival Catalina Foothills will likely be their toughest competition in Division II. The boys lost 6-3 last week to the Falcons, while the girls were trailing 4-2 when the match was called because of darkness.

The Nighthawks know they'll see Foothills at least once more - on April 17 - and possibly again in the state tournament.

"There is not another team that's strong enough that's going to challenge us and there's not another team that's strong enough to challenge them either," girls assistant coach Art Browning said.

Here are three reasons why the Nighthawks have the inside track to repeat:

1. Experience. The teams lost five starters to graduation, but return plenty of experience.

There are five seniors on the boys team, including Cody Petford, who believes his team has plenty of matches under its championship belt.

"Our top three players are tournament players and have been playing for a long time," Petford said. "We definitely have the experience to take it again."

This year's girls squad is one of the best in coach Bill Little's tenure. Ironwood Ridge returns three of its top six players, including seniors Marissa Baca and Sara Brown.

"We actually think we're stronger than last season," Little said.

2. Depth. Both Little and boys coach Ryan Bais know it will take a team effort to get back to the state finals.

"The team that wins state always has the deepest team," Bais said. "Sometimes your No. 4, 5 and 6 (players) are what carry you, and they can also be the ones who lose for you though."

The girls team is stronger in the lower seeds this year compared to last year. On the boys side, senior Adam Knox said he's been encouraged by what he's seen.

"I think as far as depth, we're set," Knox said "I also think we're set as far as talent."

3. Development. Both teams are happy to see all their offseason work starting to pay off. Girls captain Stephanie Nickles said the new pieces will fit perfectly.

Baca, her fellow captain, said it's nice to see everyone willing to put in the work.

"We're a really competitive team and all of us are dedicated," Nickles said. "I don't think there is any reason why we wouldn't win."

Watch List


• Alex Bose, Sr., Ironwood Ridge

• Andrew Dunn, Sr., Salpointe Catholic

• Richie Foitik, Sr., Santa Rita

• Evan Gazic, Jr., Pusch Ridge Christian

• Andrew Good, Sr., Catalina Foothills

• Josh Henkel, Sr., Canyon del Oro

• Yash Parikh, Fr., Salpointe Catholic

• Cody Petford, Sr., Ironwood Ridge

• Nate Rasmussen, So., Catalina Foothills

• Francisco Ton, Jr., Nogales


• Marissa Aguirre, Sr., Douglas

• Caroline Amos, So., Salpointe Catholic

• Marissa Baca, Sr., Ironwood Ridge

• Kirtana Bhat, Sr., Catalina Foothills

• Rachana Bhat, Sr., Catalina Foothills

• Sara Brown, Sr., Ironwood Ridge

• Amanda Henke, Jr., Marana

• Maeve McGeorge, Sr., Salpointe Catholic

• Cristina Oropeza, Sr., Nogales

• Susanna Studwell, Sr., Sabino

Contact reporter Chuck Constantino at or 954-0859. On Twitter: @CConstan3 or @azprepstar