Aspen knocks off Steamboat tennis |

Aspen knocks off Steamboat tennis

Steamboat Springs High School senior Nolan Connell competes against Aspen on Tuesday at the Aspen Golf and Tennis Club.
Austin Colbert/Aspen Times

— Had the Aspen High School boys tennis team played Steamboat Springs first in Tuesday’s triangular at the Aspen Golf and Tennis Club, Skier coach Gary Quandt admits the score could have been a lot worse.

Fresh off its experiential education week — Aspen hasn’t played a match since Sept. 1 against Grand Junction Central — the Skiers needed to get some of the kinks out against Vail Mountain before it moved on to the talented Sailors.

“There was definitely rust (Monday),” Quandt said. “I’m glad they played Vail first to get a little match play under their belt. Serving, particularly, is the rustiest part for these guys.”

After warming up against Vail Mountain and getting a 5-2 win, Aspen battled its way past Steamboat for another 5-2 win, even with its No. 1 singles player, senior Matthew Lambert, out due to illness.

Steamboat cruised through Vail Mountain 7-0 in its first match before taking a step back against the Skiers.

“Obviously, I think we can play a lot better. Full credit to Aspen though. All their kids were spot on today,” first-year Steamboat coach Joseph O’Dell said. “Obviously a little sad that Charlie didn’t get to play Matt in that No. 1 spot, but we’ll see them in a week. I’m really proud of the No. 2 and No. 3 singles. They played great kids. Aspen is absolutely stacked in the singles lineup.”

Steamboat’s No. 1 singles player Charlie Smith was an easy winner against Aspen’s Jaydon Richardson, who moved up from junior varsity to replace the ill Lambert. But the Skiers answered with a win at No. 2 singles — Dillon Leasure over Chase Adams, 6-3, 6-4 — and at No. 3 singles, Alex Ilic beating Nolan Connell, 7-6, 6-1.

Aspen took three of the four doubles matches, the only loss coming at No. 3 doubles when Steamboat’s Peter Wharton and Jack Bender won 6-2, 6-1 over Aspen’s Chris Gregory and George Gahil.

The doubles teams, a question mark early in the season, seem to be solidifying for Aspen, especially with strong play from the No. 1 doubles team of Keegan Mehall and Gabe Suarez, who easily won both of their matches Tuesday.

“We play similar styles of tennis; we both like to volley and get up to the net and attack,” Suarez said. “I think Steamboat is our toughest competition, and along with Vail too, so pulling out the wins will really help for regionals, confidence-wise and everything.”

And regionals are fast approaching. The Skiers play at Grand Junction Thursday before playing both Vail Mountain and Steamboat Springs again on Tuesday, this time in Vail. Aspen’s final regular-season match is Oct. 1 at home against Alexander Dawson.

“It’s coming up. Before Ex-Ed, it seemed far away,” Mehall said of prepping for regionals. “We are obviously hoping to win regionals and do as well as we can at state. That’s always the goal.”

The Sailors host Evergreen on Saturday before playing in the Vail triangular Tuesday.

“They definitely had our number,” O’Dell said of the loss to Aspen. “We’ll hope to come back and improve on some of those letdowns.”

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