Steamboat junior Mae Thorp fights through lengthy day of tennis to take second at state
GREELEY — Steamboat Springs High School junior Mae Thorp played tennis for five hours and had only 40 minutes of total rest.
In the amount of time it took for her to win the Class 3A state semifinal match at No. 1 singles against Aspen senior Mary Williams, you could watch an Avengers movie or attend an NBA game. Some people might eat two meals.
Thorp’s semifinal match, lasting three hours and 12 minutes, included 10 minutes of rest between the second and third sets, putting her physically on the court for three hours and two minutes starting at 8 a.m.
9 a.m. Williams wins the first set
Thorp held a 4-1 lead in the first set, but Williams capitalized on Thorp’s missed serves and powered her own shots to rally a 7-5 comeback win.
“I think there were eight deuce points on that game,” Steamboat head coach Kristyn Wykert said, watching from behind the fence.
10 a.m. Thorp stays alive
Thorp and Williams traded the lead at the beginning of the second set. Thorp was up 3-2, then Williams took over at 4-3. Steamboat’s No. 3 doubles team of seniors Maddie Heydon and Soria Rabanal qualified for the state final when Williams took a 5-4 lead.
By this time, fans from both teams had gathered on the bleachers outside the fence, watching the middle court. Steamboat’s No. 4 doubles team was called to its match.
Williams had four match points, but Thorp took control, placing the ball where Williams had to run for it to wear her down.
“I think that that’s what caused the third set,” Williams said. “I couldn’t get over it. I was so mad at myself. That’s the hardest part for me is knowing how close I was.”
When Thorp won the game, tying the set at 5-5, she looked up to the sky in relief, taking a deep breath before peering through the fencing to talk to Wykert.
Thorp went down early in the next game, 40-0, but rallied back to deuce on a line drive up the right side. She closed out the game, 6-5.
10:32 a.m. Thorp wins the set
Steamboat’s No. 4 doubles team dropped its first set on the court on the far end. Thorp and Williams rallied to back and forth until Thorp closed out a 7-5 victory. A woman came over the PA system to say that the finals would start at 11 a.m., adding at the end, “Only if they’re ready.” The remark made the Steamboat and Aspen crowds laugh.
Williams and Thorp were granted a 10-minute break before the final set.
“Third set I just was like, ‘I’m done’,” Thorp said. “After the second set, I pulled out some of her match points and I was just like: I got this.”
10:53 a.m. Thorp takes a lead
Thorp and Williams resumed play at 10:42, and the No. 4 doubles team lost in the semifinal on the court next to them. The singles match on the other side finished, and all courts around them emptied.
The sun and tennis started to wear on Williams. She crouched down after losing three straight games, scratching her racket across the surface when she missed a serve.
“I told her (Thorp) to walk with confidence because if you saw her opponent, she was tired,” Wykert said. “You could tell because she was dragging her feet, and those small queues on the court matter.”
Both the No. 2 and No. 4 doubles teams learned they had earned a playback and headed to the University of Northern Colorado campus next door to start their matches.
11:12 a.m. Thorp wins semifinal
Thorp took a 4-1 lead. Between each point, she went to the fence, waiting for Wykert’s instruction. Depending on how long the previous point was, Wykert gave her a number of seconds to take to breathe before she stepped back in play. It grounded her, ensuring that she was being smart about her match and managing her energy level.
“Mae has the tendency to just go go go and doesn’t take time to think about her last point,” Wykert said. “I tell her to take 5 seconds or 10 seconds and think about what you’re going to do instead of having the other player control the pace.”
In her final game, she rallied until Williams missed an easy ball at deep court to take the match 5-7, 7-5, 6-1. Thorp emerged from the court with an exhausted grin, holding a blue gatorade bottle against her cheek to cool down.
From there, she only had 30 minutes of rest until her final match.
11:45 a.m. Thorp takes the court in the state final
Thorp was back on the court for a rematch against Peak to Peak senior Trisha Somasundaram, who beat her in last year’s state final.
She took a 3-0 lead in the first set, but like Williams, Somasundaram rallied back for a 5-4 lead. Williams watched on from the bleachers, dreading her next match.
“I think that it’s definitely literally the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Williams said. “Especially 7-5, 5-7, that’s an insane first two sets. I can’t even describe it. The mentality of tennis is the hardest part for me. … Having to play again, it’s literally the worst thing ever.”
12:20 p.m. Thorp drops first set
Thorp played up to speed with the same power, but her consistency fluctuated, leading her to drop the first set, 6-4. In the normal three-day format, Thorp would’ve rested between the semifinal and final matches. This tournament was condensed into two days due to weather, taking away that luxury.
“That’s the tough thing about a two-day format,” Wykert said. “I just wish she had a little bit more time to rest. In the last match that she played, she still played strong, she was just a little bit tired.”
1:20 p.m. Thorp loses the state final
Somasundaram grabbed a 4-1 lead over Thorp, but Thorp didn’t give up, rallying back to a 5-3 deficit. She meant to call the final ball in the game out, but instead, returns it into the net. Somasundaram won 6-4, 6-3.
“Who’s the state champ? I’m the state champ!” Somasundaram said, with her fist and racket up in the air before shaking Thorp’s hand.
She shook Somasundaram’s hand, then walked off the court and around the corner of the check-in building, sitting with her back against the wall while her teammates congratulated her. This is Thorp’s third straight second-place finish at state.
“I’m still proud of my performance,” Thorp said. “It hurts knowing I could’ve won that match and could’ve gotten first, but why would I not be happy with second? That’s good.”
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