selfridges ugg boots Sarianna Kuuttila build amazing rivalry in New Mexico high school tennis

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It’s the hottest tennis rivalry in New Mexico and, perhaps, the hottest one in the entire country. Making it even more remarkable is that neither girl is an upperclassman.

, a mere freshman representing Eldorado (Albuquerque), and , a sophomore representing La Cueva (Albuquerque), tangled four times this spring and split. Corley won their first meeting in a dual meet 6 4, 6 3, But Kuuttila followed with a marathon 6 7 (6 8), 7 6 (7 5), 6 2 victory in a three hour, 50 minute Metro Tournament match and followed by winning at the Class 6A district tourney 6 3, 6 1.

The Metro finale should go down in state history as one of the great classics. Kuuttila saved eight match points in the pressure filled second set and then rolled to victory in the third set. Her singles win enabled the Bears to capture the team championship by one half of a point.

At age 14 Kuuttila had played and won a match that lasted four hours and 20 minutes during the Hardcourt Nationals in California. Corley said she never had played a longer match.

Kuuttila recalled, “I was pretty tired, but surprisingly not as much as I thought. My coach has me running a lot and it helped my endurance.”

Photo courtesy of Matt Oetzel

Sarianna Kuuttila, La Cueva

Eldorado coach Helen Horn called the match “phenomenal. They were hitting deep, the rallies were long.”

Corley pointed out, “I learned from it (the tough loss). When you get an opportunity to close out, don’t be afraid to close out. I was playing conservatively and waiting for her to miss.”

Even though she also lost in the district match, the 5 foot 7 Corley came back with a vengeance in the state title clash.

Her secret?

She explained, “I wasn’t focused on who I was playing,
selfridges ugg boots Sarianna Kuuttila build amazing rivalry in New Mexico high school tennis
just focused on me and the ball. I worked very hard to just focus on the moment. Sometimes I had to slow down. It was my serve and finding the range between consistent and aggressive. It was definitely my best match of the season. Everything went my way. I wouldn’t say I was surprised, because I knew I could do it.”

Both coaches agreed that Corley played practically a perfect match.

La Cueva coach Wendy Thomas said, “Ivana played the best I ever saw her play. Ivana brought it. She didn’t make any mistakes and played out of her mind.”

Eldorado’s Horn noted, “After Ivana lost the district she made a really conscious decision to work harder. She really prepared herself and was in command. Her serve was on. At the district she was having some problems.”

The 5 foot 6 Kuuttila was seeded No. 1 and she admitted, “I think people expected me to win. She played very well, probably the best I ever saw her play. She really stepped it up and I didn’t play as well. It’s always hard to play three matches on one day.”

Though she never used it as an excuse, Kuuttila did play three matches on one day, while Corley was given an unexpected break when her semifinal opponent was injured early in the match and had to forfeit.

Both girls are home schooled and due to a paperwork problem Kuuttila briefly was declared ineligible just before her first state finals match. That trauma didn’t help her, either. Again she made no excuses.

This unique and heated rivalry started when the girls were around age 10.

Corley believes she won their first meeting in a third set tiebreaker. Kuuttila thinks she won. The bottom line is that they have tangled somewhere around 15 times and the outcome is pretty even.

To show how competitive Corley is, when she was in seventh grade she fell on her stomach during a match and the racquet slipped out of her hands. While still on the ground she grabbed the racquet and made a good return.

Asked about this fierce rivalry, Corley replied, “It’s on and off, but I really enjoy Sara. It’s complicated, but we are so competitive. When we play, I try to be a gracious winner and a gracious loser.”

Coach Horn added, “It is a good rivalry that tends to bring out the best in each other the level of play. Both are great competitors and I’m sure it’s going to go back and forth (in the future).”

Kuuttila, who has been state runner up twice in singles and team results, said “We’re kind of just competitors. It’s always fun to play her.”

This classic rivalry is going to continue for at least two more years in high school. Kuuttila is ranked No. 43 nationally in the Class of 2017, while Corley is No. 42 in the Class of 2018.

Coach Thomas wisely summed up the rivalry when she said, “They really are good for each other. I hope when they are older that they will be good friends.”

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