Tucson Catalina Foothills and Oro Valley Ironwood Ridge split meetings during the regular season, but Catalina Foothills prevailed when it mattered most Saturday.
With victory in the last of three doubles matches, Catalina Foothills defeated Ironwood Ridge 5-4 for the Division II championship at Glendale’s Paseo Racquet Center.
It was Catalina Foothills’ 12th championship in the past 14 seasons, and celebratively, avenged a 5-4 loss to Ironwood Ridge in last year’s final.
“I knew it would be a close match,” Catalina Foothills coach Kristie Stevens said of all three of this year’s meetings being decided by one match. “I didn’t expect anything less.”
Catalina Foothills swept through the 16-team state tournament without losing a match to Casa Grande, Arcadia and Prescott, but had its hands full against Ironwood Ridge. The teams were tied 4-4 through singles play and two doubles matchups. The championship wasn’t decided until Catalina Foothills sisters Rachana and Kirtana Bhat beat Ironwood Ridge’s Marissa Baca and Kelsey Brown, 10-6.
The Bhats beat Baca and Brown for the individual doubles championship at Paseo a week earlier, but considered the team victory especially sweet.
“We wanted to complete what we came for,” Kirtana Bhat said. “We knew it would be close.”
Rachana Bhat said she and her sister clicked.
“That’s important,” she said. “We started off games real well.”
Catalina Foothills defeated Ironwood Ridge for the championship in 2003 and ’04, but last year, Ironwood Ridge got revenge by winning its first title. The rivalry reached fever pitch this season, when Catalina Foothills won the teams’ season-opening match and Ironwood Ridge won their regular-season finale.
The neighborhood rivalry is a healthy one, Ironwood Ridge coach William Little said.
“It’s fitting that it came down to us in the final,” he said. “They’re inspired by us, and we’re inspired by them.”