1 doubles team, 1 singles player continue in consolation round | SteamboatToday.com

1 doubles team, 1 singles player continue in consolation round

Keegan Burger stretches for a return Friday at the state tennis tournament in Pueblo.

The Steamboat Springs High School boys tennis team entered Friday’s state tournament action praying for help.

It didn’t receive nearly enough to make up for a disastrous first two rounds of the Pueblo-based tournament, but a day of gutty play paid off, and in the last five minutes of Friday’s action, two entries punched their ticket to Saturday’s consolation finals.

Junior Keegan Burger, playing at No. 2 singles, and the No. 4 doubles team of sophomore Gabri Erspamer and freshman Kyle Rogers pulled off stunning rallies to win their consolation semifinal matches.

They play at 9 a.m. today for third place.

“Today was a relief,” coach John Aragon said. Thursday “we came up on the short end of close matches, but today we were on the plus side, and that was a real positive for Steamboat.”

Friday started as miserably as Thursday ended, but all seemed right as the sun hung low in the sky, and Steamboat finally caught a few breaks.

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That started with Burger.

Burger was one of two Sailors defeated Thursday to get playback opportunities. He was the only one to take advantage.

He blasted D’Evelyn senior Alex Beaman, 6-2, 6-1, in the consolation quarterfinals, but he looked like a different player less than an hour later when he took the court against Jeff Hudson, a highly seeded Mullen senior.

Hudson built seemingly insurmountable leads in each of the match’s two sets.

He led 5-2 in the first and 5-1 in the second.

“But I refuse to lose,” Burger said afterward, grinning widely.

He charged back in both sets with impeccable tennis. He was powerful with his returns, suddenly breaking Hudson’s serve at will, and consistent enough with his own service games.

He worked the baseline hard over long points, continually trying Hudson’s backhand and working him into impossible return attempts.

He also deployed a ridiculous power forehand down the line just often enough. He smashed one such winner to tie the second set at five games.

“That down the line shot, that’s all about his level of focus. He can do that. He has the ability,” Aragon said. “I’ve always known he has that kind of talent. If he zeros in and focuses, he can be an amazing player.”

Burger finally gave up one of the next two games, but held serve and took the tiebreaker and the match.

He returns to the court today against Niwot freshman Harrison Long, who won his consolation semifinal match 6-1, 6-3 against Elias Lehnert of Greeley West.

“I never thought it was over. I was just determined to win,” Burger said. “When I put my mind to accomplishing something, I can do it. I just need to come out and play my game.”

The No. 4 doubles team went through just as much drama.

It began the day the only Steamboat entry to qualify for the championship bracket semifinals but lost in that match to a team from Kent Denver, 6-2, 6-3.

The two also gave up the first set of their consolation match, 6-4, against Kevin Josey and Scott Rutherford of Niwot.

After that, everything was different. The pair was on point with its service game and suddenly rigid on defense.

Rogers held serve to put the team up 6-5 in the second set and then they broke Niwot to force a third.

They again strung together back-to-back games to take the third set, whiffing on three match-point opportunities in the final game before coming through.

“I was just so happy we finally won that match,” Rogers said. “I served well, Gabri served well. The only thing we were doing wrong was unforced errors. We knew we could pull it out.”

Rogers and Erspamer will play today against Nathan Liston and Tanner Trace of Fossil Ridge, who advanced to the third-place game with a 6-1, 6-3 victory against a Silver Creek squad.

“Those two kids, they became men in this tournament,” Aragon said.

Steamboat’s only other action Friday came from No. 1 singles player Jamey Swiggart.

Playing against Cheyenne Mountain’s Jon Moore, the sophomore struggled with a slow first set for the second consecutive day. He was much improved late in the second, rallying from a 5-1 hole to within three points of a tie, but couldn’t finish that charge.

He lost 6-3, 6-4.

Friday’s results

No. 1 singles

Jon Moore, Cheyenne Mountain, def. Jamey Swiggart, Steamboat, 6-3, 6-4.

No. 2 singles

Keegan Burger, Steamboat, def. Alex Beaman, D’Evelyn, 6-2, 6-1.

Burger def. Jeff Hudson, Mullen, 7-5, 7-6 (3).

No. 4 doubles

David Karpas and Alec Lee, Kent Denver, def. Kyle Roberts and Gabri Erspamer, Steamboat, 6-2, 6-3.

Roberts and Erspamer def. Kevin Josey and Scott Rutherford, Niwot, 4-6, 7-5, 7-5.