PHOENIX — With two doubles tennis titles stowed in an already-strained trophy case, Pusch Ridge Christian senior Jaime Shepherd reflected on the finer points of both her on-court partnerships, awaiting last Friday’s team semifinals match against Fountain Hills.
Oddly enough, it all came down to friendship for the amiable three-sport dynamo.
Both partners were “special.” But version 2.0 of the 2A/3A binary — now with fellow senior Mya Towne — was more so.
“We’ve been best friends since eighth grade, so it’s been really fun playing together this year,” Shepherd said. “I just think we’re a little bit closer as friends.”
Towne agreed that the point was to go out on top before college rolled around. Her maxim applied to the afternoons’ upcoming action, as well.
“I just want to get out there and play. I have no expectations or anything,” Towne said. “This is the last time I’m going to be playing high school tennis, so I kinda just want to play without any regrets.”
And so they played.
And so they wound up winning the semifinals.
The next day, when Florence’s squad showed up — one player short with a five-girl roster— Pusch Ridge’s Lions beat the Gophers for the team title aided by match credits, in what coach David Towne called a particularly “anti-climactic” fashion.
“It was an awesome season — everything that we expected, and more,” Towne said, of the 5-0 victory. “Just a little odd at the end.”
Both Pusch Ridge’s girls (19-0) and boys (14-4) crews won regional titles and qualified nine total players for the state tournament.
But the boys’ squad hit a familiar rut — namely Phoenix Country Day School — during the team semifinals at Phoenix Tennis Center.
The Lions’ guys, who lamented their lack of solid competition leading up to the tournament’s final stages, lost their series 5-0.
Senior Derek Tilley, Jr. fell once again to his non-regional, red-headed nemesis, Patrick Taylor, in the top-seeded match.
“It’s hard to get used to him,” Tilley said. “If I could play with him, I could learn his style.”
Not that he’ll have time. Tilley, Jr. is headed for Marine Corps boot camp this summer, where he’s likely to have little contact with racquets.
Only one of his departing teammates on the ladies’ side, Towne, plans to play tennis collegiately.
She’ll do so at Whitworth University, in Spokane, Wash.
Shepherd will focus on books when she attends Oklahoma Baptist University this fall.
After four straight state basketball titles, she’s giving the trophy case a break.
“My body’s kind of worn out from three high school sports,” Shpeherd said.
“I just want to focus on school and intramurals and have the college experience.”