Murray to play for state tennis title

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After losing the first set of Friday's semifinal match to Eaton's Whitney Cunningham, 6-0, Steamboat Springs sophomore Breanne Murray wanted to give up.

"I was starting to break down, and then I remembered where I was," Murray said. "I was standing on the service line of the semifinal match at the state meet."

So instead of giving up, the Sailor's No. 3 player decided to step it up.

"I focused on the ball. I didn't notice the crowd or the players around me. I listened to my coaches, and I got angry," Murray said.

By the time Murray relaxed two sets later, she had beaten Cunningham, 6-1, 6-3, and kept her state title dreams alive for another day.

"It feels amazing," Murray said about being the first member of the Sailors' girls tennis team to advance to the finals.

Murray will face Kent Denver's Lauren Miller at 9 a.m. today in the finals of the state tournament. Miller, a junior, upset tournament favorite Cayley Wetzig in her semifinal match, 6-3, 6-4, to earn a shot at the Steamboat player.

Sailor coach John Aragon said Miller will present a good challenge for Murray.

"Breanne is going to need to play her best tennis if she wants to win the title," Aragon said. "Miller's a real solid player, and I'm sure nerves will also play a role in the match."

Murray's teammate, Lisa Floyd, learned a thing or two about nerves in her two matches Friday.

She said nerves played a part in her loss to top-seeded Casey Wetzig from Cheyenne Mountain in the first match of the day.

The more-experienced Casey Wetzig cruised past the Steamboat freshman, 6-0, 6-3.

"I was really nervous," Floyd said. "My heart was racing, and I had butterflies in my stomach."

However, Floyd said she was happy to get the chance to face off against the Cheyenne Mountain sophomore and thinks the experience will help her in the future.

"I'm just a freshman, so I've still got three more years," Floyd said. "I was just happy to take some games off her."

After losing, Floyd made the most of her opportunity in the playbacks.

She dropped the first set to Ralston Valley's Jacque Sykes, 4-6. But like her teammate Murray, she recovered in the final two sets, 6-2, 6-4, to advance to today's consolation finals, when she will play Kent Denver's Lindsey Kucera.

"I figured out in the second set that I just needed to stay patient and let her make the mistakes," Floyd said.

The day ended on a bittersweet note for the Steamboat team.

Senior Kelli Parnell, who lost to Cheyenne Mountain's Christina Cutter on Thursday, battled back in the playbacks but could not extend her state run to today.

She topped Thompson Valley's Tracy Mayes in the first round of the day, 6-4, 6-0, but could not get past Pueblo South's Sarah Drummond.

Drummond, who played Cutter in what many people thought was the match of the week earlier Friday, lost the first set to Parnell, 6-3, but found new life down the stretch.

"I'm happy. It was a good weekend, and I think I faced the top two players in the state," Parnell said.

Parnell said she was thrilled she played as well as she did at state -- especially considering that she just started playing tennis five years ago, and she missed last year's state finals with a broken foot.

"I wasn't crying at the end of the match because I lost," a teary-eyed Parnell said after the match. "It just hit me that this is my final high school match and my final match with this team."

Parnell, who will graduate in a few weeks, will attend Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania, where her tennis career will continue.

"I think I will always remember this team. It was great having all of them with me during my senior year," Parnell said.

Aragon will be hoping his two remaining players can pick up a few more points today and help his girls post their highest team finish ever.

Steamboat ended Friday in third place in the team standings with 23 points. Cheyenne Mountain and Kent Denver were tied for the lead with 58 points.Mullen is just behind Steamboat with 22 points.

Steamboat will need a little help to stay in front of Mullen in the final tally. Mullen has players in the finals at No. 1, No. 3 and No. 4 doubles. Mullen also has a team in the consolation round at No. 2 doubles. Steamboat still could pick up points with Murray at No. 2 singles and with Floyd at No. 3 singles.

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