Steamboat girls tennis team looks for 5th regional title |

Steamboat girls tennis team looks for 5th regional title

Luke Graham

Steamboat Springs High School No. 2 doubles team members Mandy Thielemann, right, and Hayley Richman celebrate after scoring during a practice match Tuesday at the Old Town Hot Springs tennis courts.

— The Steamboat Springs High School girls tennis team enters today and Friday’s regional tennis tournament as the odds-on favorite to bring home a fifth consecutive regional title.

Putting any other team ahead of Steamboat would be ludicrous. Although there certainly will be some intrigue at several spots – mainly No. 1 singles, where Steamboat’s Shelby Reed returns from injury to a loaded bracket – the Sailors return the most experience, the best team and an astounding eight girls who already have an individual regional championship to their credit.

Along with Reed, No. 2 and 3 singles players Valerie Lezin and Claire Parsons each have a regional title.

Doubles players Sara Bearss, Kylee Swiggart, Kaitie Breisch, Mandy Thielemann and Hayley Richman all were regional champions last year.

Steamboat’s other three girls – Christi Valicenti, Ali Diehl and Lauren Siegel – have all proven throughout the year that Steamboat is in prime position to add another regional team title.

“You can see it in talking to the girls in that they don’t want to be the team to let it drop,” Steamboat coach John Aragon said. “We’re giving a gift to the seniors. The best gift you can give the seniors is a regional title. But this is the first year I didn’t play a full schedule in 22 years of coaching. They have the character and the game but they have to want it more than the other teams.”

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Although Steamboat enters as the favorite, there certainly are some plots to follow. In addition to Reed’s injury, which kept her out for most of the season, Steamboat consistently has had to juggle its roster. Steamboat also got in only nine matches and one tournament – far short of its normal schedule.

So although Aragon has a set roster, a lot of the doubles teams haven’t played together that much all season.

“We’ll be fine. We’ve been doing a lot of doubles stuff in lessons,” said Richman, who played with Thielemann for part of the season and also played singles. “We’ve been practicing a lot of strategy and being more aggressive.”

One team that won’t have to worry much is the No. 1 doubles team of Bearss and Swiggart. The two played nearly the entire season together and formed a dominant duo.

Still, the two veterans aren’t taking the regional tournament lightly, even if they’re a team that should have a legitimate shot to finish high at the state tournament.

“You don’t go in with that mentality,” Swiggart said. “If you go in with that mentality, something bad is bound to happen. Every match counts no matter who it is against.”

Although the regional tournament is on everyone’s mind, it’s hard not to look toward the state competition. To be successful there, Aragon knows it will take as many players as possible qualifying.

Getting all 11 players there, he said, would be ideal.

“If they want to go to state, they have to win that first round,” Aragon said. “It’s going to come down to keeping our composure, working hard on the court and making good things happen. They have the skill and they have the talent. They just have to go out and play and want it more than anybody else.”

The tournament begins at 8:30 a.m. today and concludes Friday.

Projected lineup

No. 1 singles – Shelby Reed

No. 2 singles – Valerie Lezin

No. 3 singles – Claire Parsons

No. 1 doubles – Kylee Swiggart and Sara Bearss

No. 2 doubles – Mandy Thielemann and Hayley Richman

No. 3 doubles – Christi Valicenti and Kaitie Breisch

No. 4 doubles – Ali Diehl and Lauren Siegel