ALBUQUERQUE – Santa Fe High School’s doubles tennis team could be called the experienced youth and the veteran with youth exuberance.
The one thing that Brandee Fulgenzi and Greta Miller can certainly be called, however, is state champions after a thrilling, three-set, tiebreaker victory Thursday in the Class 4A finals over the Albuquerque Academy duo of Melissa Pick and Stacy Pollack.
“It’s a tremendous win,” said Santa Fe coach Bill Ellsworth.
It’s an unlikely pairing of Demonettes in eighth-grader Fulgenzi and senior Miller, ranked No. 1 in her class academically and on her way to Princeton in the fall. “I don’t know, we just clicked,” Miller said of the team chemistry.
All of that was in display in the final set after Santa Fe won the first set 6-4 and Academy came back to take the second 1-6. Fulgenzi and Miller then went up 4-1 in the final set before the Demonettes started to stumble.
With the Chargers pounding a steady barrage of shots in her direction, Miller began to waiver and the Demonettes let the momentum slither away.
“Academy was going after her,” Ellsworth noted. “But she fought through it. They did a great job of keeping it together.”
Before Santa Fe could get it back together, however, the Chargers had surged into a 5-4 lead, with Fulgenzi serving to even the match. She held serve and the Demonettes were able to break Pollack, a two-time singles champion.
Relying on an underhanded slice serve, Santa Fe was able to quickly gain the advantage and the 6-5 lead. But Academy held its serve, forcing the tie breaker, in which neither side had a lead of more than one point until the final margin of 7-5.
“It feels crazy,” Miller said of the victory. “I’m still in awe.”When things were sliding away, Miller said she wasn’t sure what happened, but she knew she had to rely on her teammate. “We knew we had to go all out,” she said. “We had to go big or go home. And Brandee’s great. She’s kind of my mentor out on the court. She has so much more experience on the court and she helps me out a lot.”
Fulgenzi said the key victory was settling down the focusing. “We just talked with each other and communicated,” she said. “We had to play together and keep each other up.”
Ellsworth said the victory was one for the ages. “They had to fight back like that in the third set, what a great win,” he said.