echnically it was an upset. Although they were ranked No. 3 in the state, Katie Brown and Allison Knox were not supposed to be state champions. Even at third, to take home the Division II state double championship, the Ironwood Ridge duo had to take down the state’s two best teams.
Despite the uphill battle, Coach Susan Williams knew she had a team that could win it all.
“The seeding was a mystery to me,” Williams said. “That’s calculus I guess, those numbers do not always add up to me.”
The duo cruised early on, winning their first three matches without losing a game. It was at that point the two thought they had a legitimate shot at winning the title.
“We were confident for the first couple of rounds,” said Brown. “When it got closer to the end with the tougher teams we were pretty nervous but we pulled out and said ‘we can definitely do this’. We just stayed calm and intense.”
Williams was even more confident.
“I knew they could win it,” Williams said. “It was just a matter of going through and doing it. I knew it. They are such a great team. Their chemistry - they have one of those just look at each other kinds of relationships. They just got it done. It was so fun to watch them win, they had a great time.”
Competition got tougher in the quarter finals. They lost a game, but still cruised to a 6-1, 6-1 win over No. 6 Maya Glicksman and Gracy Slaughter of Cactus Shadows.
Next, they had to face one of their rivals from Catalina Foothills. They played like a confident team, beating the No. 2 ranked Foothills’ Noelle Karp and Katie Watson, 6-2, 6-1.
Three hours later, they beat the No. 1 team in the state, Notre Dame’s Caitlin Railson and Sarah Eversman. This was their toughest match of the tournament, but they still won 6-3, 6-2.
“At the beginning there was some doubt, there were some nerves there with it being state and all,” said Knox. “Once we made it to the finals we knew we were going to win. We had it.”
“It felt pretty amazing,” Brown added.
Both players had been to state before, just not as teammates. Brown teamed with Marissa Baca and made it all the way to the 2013 championship match before falling to Rachana and Kirtana Bhat of Foothills.
The two had long been friends, so Williams thought it was only natural to pair the two juniors who also happen to be her top two singles players. Although it took the pair a little while to figure out they had some special chemistry, Coach Williams saw it early on.
“Instantly from the get-go, we knew they were going to be our go-to team for state,” said Williams.
While the duo made it to the championship title, their final goal for Ironwood Ridge to take the team Division II title fell short. The Nighthawks fell to Catalina Foothills in the state semi-finals on May 9.
For Ironwood Ridge, the future still looks strong as Knox and Brown will be returning in 2015 as seniors. As a team, all but two athletes will be returning next year.