May 11, 2005 - In the fleeting moments before her Class 1A-2A state championship match on May 7 at the Tucson Racquet Club, Mya Towne, of Pusch Ridge Christian Academy's girls tennis team, sat back and soaked in some advice from Lonnie Tvrdy, the school's head basketball coach.
"You're going to adjust during the match," Tvrdy told the freshman. "You just got to be mentally tough."
If anyone knows a thing or two about state championships, it would be Tvrdy. In February, his Pusch Ridge girls brought the school its first-ever state title under that name. In 1997, when the school was still known as Palo Verde Christian Academy, the softball team won the 1A state title.
Two sets after the pep talk, Towne had some championship hardware of her own with a 6-3, 6-0 whitewashing of Melissa Jackson of Valley Union High School in the Class 1A-2A girls tennis singles tournament.
"I feel like a load has been taken off my shoulders," said a relieved Towne after the title match.
Towne's efforts, with the aid of doubles duo Chelsea Vick and Sarah McCormack, helped Pusch Ridge tie for second overall in the girls team championship race.
Towne flew under the radar for most of the tourney's two days, steadily gaining momentum with each win.
One by one, down they fell: Carly McLaurin of Antelope Union High School, Morgan McCartney of Scottsdale Christian Academy and Elizabeth Baeza of Miami High School. It was a remarkable 44-game stretch that saw the freshman lose just eight times.
"I wasn't thinking of the outcome," said a humble Towne. "I was just happy for the opportunity to play at state."
Towne's finals opponent was no slouch. Jackson entered the tournament as the state's No. 1 seed. To further add to the finals drama, the May 7 title match fell on Jackson's 18th birthday.
When fall arrives, Jackson, the state's No. 1 ranked French horn player, will attend the University of Arizona on a music scholarship. In the end, however, it was Towne who was singing the victory song.
After struggling with her first serve in the first set, Towne regained her swagger in the second, blanking Jackson in six straight games. The freshman won the last nine games and broke Jackson's serve six times over the course of the match.
Her toughest match may have come in the semifinals, when she faced Baeza, of Miami. Emotions ran the gamut in the match against Baeza, the state's No. 1 seed out of the 2A Central Region, but Towne was able to pull out the win despite dropping the first two games of the second set. The turning point of the match came with Towne up 4-2 in the set but down 0-40 in the seventh game. The freshman rallied to win the game and subsequently the match, 6-1 6-4, taking advantage of Baeza's weak second serve.
In the two and a half hour delay that separated the semifinals and finals, the reality of her trek through the tourney began to set in, Towne said.
"My stomach was tossing and turning," she said. After dispensing of Jackson for the state crown, Towne and her stomach could finally take a rest and celebrate the only way the freshman knows how.
"My mom is making spaghetti. It's my favorite."