DENVER — The last time Poudre’s Avery Hickman tested her luck in the No. 1 singles field of the Class 5A state tournament, her championship run ended in the quarterfinals to eventual state champion, Boulder’s Lily Chitambar.

While she ended up settling for fourth place her junior year, the current Impala senior is on a mission to avenge last year’s loss on Colorado high school tennis’ greatest stage. On Friday at City Park, during the re-imagined individual state tournament, she set herself up to do just that after enduring a marathon match against Pine Creek’s Ava Lewis in the quarterfinals.

Thanks to the relentless rain earlier in the week, CHSAA had to move the tournament around a bit. The governing body opted to do away with playbacks altogether to squeeze the usual three-day competition into two days.

That made every match do-or-die, and Hickman played as such.

Following a rough first set, which ended with a 6-2 win for Lewis, Hickman composed herself and leaned back on the game that’s carried her this far. She stormed back in the second set to claim it with a similar 6-2 score.

“She was hitting all her shots in and I was making a few errors,” Hickman said. “But I knew I could do it. In the second set, I really just came out confident, tried to hit to the backhand and just really hit my strokes and not let what she was doing get to me, because she has really nice volleys and really nice shots.”

That set up for a thrilling finish, one that needed a tiebreaker to determine who would pave her way into the semifinals on Saturday morning. Hickman eventually out-dueled Lewis when it mattered most to take the third and final set with a 7-6 score.

That level of grit came as no surprise to her head coach Laura Ecton.

“Avery is the girl that will stay out there all day long to get the job done,” Ecton said. “She’s a great defender. I think she’s able to hit 100 balls or as long as it takes to get the job done. As a player, she works hard all the time. She’s consistently trying to improve her game, and I’m just thrilled that she was able to pull this out and advance to the semifinals.”

Since that fourth-place finish a year earlier, Poudre’s leading lady — who’s committed to Colorado College — has worked to alter her approach on the court, opting to take more risk and go on the attack as opposed to the usual defensive play that defined her game in years past.

It’s shown through her 11-3 dual record this spring. The key, she said, was to end points as quickly as possible to keep her opponents in check.

“The cancellation of playbacks was really stressful and so now it’s like, well, no matter what, I’m placing,” Hickman said. “It was fighting every point. Even if I thought I couldn’t get to a shot, I would still run for it and then, you never know. Even if you hit, just making somebody hit one more ball really helps.”

Now, Hickman will get to test her acumen in the semifinals against Fairview’s Quinn Bernthal, who finished runner-up to Chitambar last year as a sophomore. Their match will begin at 9 a.m. at City Park.