The Panthers were lifted by their No. 1 singles player — third-place finisher Eric Curtis — and their No. 2 doubles team of Marshall McArthur and Justin Lynn, who took second.
The boys were only two and a half points back of Cheyenne Central and third place.
Campbell County High School of Gillette won the event with 59 points, followed by Cody with 44. Cheyenne Central had 28, and Powell had 25.5. Laramie had fifth with 22.5 points, among 16 teams.
The Natrona County girls took the state title with 54 points, trailed closely by Sheridan, with 50. Cheyenne Central’s 33 points were good for third.
The Lady Panthers had five points to take 11th.
Though tennis does not have different classes, Bieber noted that among typical 3A schools, the Powell boys placed second and the girls fourth.
Lynn and McArthur, the north region champions, came oh-so-close to claiming the state title, losing to the team they beat in the regional finals — Cody’s Dan Dunn and Ethan Smith — in the championship match (1-6, 7-5, 6-4).
The match was the first in which the PHS duo lost a set at state, having swept their three matches leading up to the championship bout.
That streak of straight-set victories appeared to be in doubt against Sheridan, with McArthur and Lynn down 5-1, 40-love in the second set. But Sheridan double-faulted four times in a row and the PHS juniors stormed back to win the set 7-5.
“One of the weirdest sets that I’ve ... ever heard of,” Bieber said.
Bieber said the finale was a “one-point match” decided by a couple crucial points.
“Either one of those, if we would have won that one point we would have won the match,” Bieber said.
The coach credited Cody for playing the best he’s seen them all year, though, “if I were Cody, I wouldn’t want to play them (McArthur and Lynn) again.”
The coach made the same prediction for Campbell County’s Brandon Swan, who dealt Curtis his only loss. Curtis was the only player to push Swan, the ultimate champion, to three sets, and vice versa.
Bieber repeatedly described Curtis’ play as “unbelievable.”
The PHS senior pummeled Mark Broyles of Cheyenne South to open the tournament, 6-0, 6-0 and beat Reed Ritterbusch of Sheridan, 6-2, 6-2 before losing to Swan, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2.
In the consolation bracket, Curtis then beat Hayden Leeds of Jackson, 6-2, 6-4 and dominated Natrona County’s Leland Dexter 6-1, 6-1 for third place.
Bieber said Dexter, a good player, had no answer for Curtis’ repeated shots to his backhand and body.
“He was just unbelievable,” Bieber said of Curtis. “That’s exactly how we would like people to play when it comes down to the end.”
Bieber said Curtis’ play placed him as one of the best singles players Powell has ever had.
“He really came through for us,” Bieber said.
At No. 2 singles, sophomore exchange student Shohei Sato broke through against Torrington’s seeded Josh Ring, 7-5, 7-5. “That was really key,” Bieber said. Sato then lost 6-0, 6-2 to the eventual winner, Riley Swanson of Gillette, and 6-3, 6-4 to John Kelleher of Riverton.
Seniors Ashton Soloai and Todd Lewis were defeated by Cheyenne Central’s No. 1 doubles team, 4-6, 6-3, 6-0, who finished third. Soloai and Lewis then beat their Cheyenne East counterparts, 6-1, 6-3 and dominated a Sheridan duo that had previously pounded them, 6-1, 6-2. Soloai and Lewis then lost to Laramie, 6-3, 6-2, the fourth-place finisher.
McArthur and Lynn opened with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Torrington and followed it with 6-2, 6-2 and 6-2, 7-5 wins over Jackson’s and Sheridan’s teams, respectively, to reach the No. 2 doubles final.
At No. 3 doubles, freshman Matt Brown and sophomore Sam Prestwich lost 6-4, 6-3 to Laramie, but beat Cheyenne South 6-0, 6-3 in the consolation bracket before taking a 6-2, 6-3 defeat to Riverton.
On the girls side, No. 1 singles player BreaAnn Hollenbeck lost 6-1, 6-1 to Laramie’s Veronica Clark, who never lost a set in becoming the state champion.
Hollenbeck then beat Brianna Rundell of Green River, 6-2, 6-1, and claimed a come-from-behind 0-6, 7-5, 6-4 win over Kelly Walsh’s Reaghan Rudkin before losing 6-3, 6-3 to third-place finisher Frannie Murray of Cheyenne Central.
“We got lots of compliments about her (Hollenbeck’s) hustle and her level of play,” Bieber said, also saying the junior “played really, really well.”
At No. 2 singles, senior Emily Kath lost 6-3, 6-3 to Mikayla Brower of Torrington, the third-place finisher. She then swept past Ashley Donovan of Rawlins before losing 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) to Gillette’s Barb Giffin in a close match.
Senior Lacey Eckerdt and exchange student Leya Goette, playing at No. 1 doubles, lost 6-1, 6-2 to Laramie, then trounced Cheyenne South, 6-0, 6-0. They lost 6-1, 0-6, 6-3 to Kelly Walsh.
Junior Sheridan Roling and freshman Cydney Barrus lost 6-4, 6-4 to Laramie and 6-4, 6-3 to Torrington in No. 2 doubles action. “They battled,” Bieber said.
At No. 3 doubles, senior Kim Moore and junior Marisa Sanders claimed an opening 6-0, 6-4 win over Sheridan before losing 6-1, 6-0 to Laramie, the third-place finisher. Moore and Sanders beat Riverton 6-0, 6-2, but was ousted by Cheyenne Central in a tight 7-5, 6-4 decision.
“They had a really good tournament,” Bieber said.
The coach said the state tournament was a really good ending to the fall season.
“This team really got along with one another,” Bieber said. “We were decent all the way up and down the lineup and that made it good.”
He credited the team’s offseason work for the strong season.
Six of PHS’ 22 varsity players are seniors and two are exchange students.
“We’re losing a lot of great seniors, so it’s going to be interesting next year, but we also have a lot of good players back, too,” Bieber said.