Burger hopes to land title on final day of state high school tennis championships in Pueblo

John F. Russell

— Steamboat Springs freshman Tatum Burger is a girl of few words when it comes to post-match interviews, but that’s OK because she prefers to let her performance on the courts at the 4A Colorado State High School Tennis Championships speak for itself.

On Monday, Tatum made quick work of Vanguard senior Alyx Callahan in the opening match 6-0, 6-2 and then later that day she punched her ticket to the semifinals with a 7-6, 6-1 win over Colorado Academy junior Tara Edwards.

She stayed on track Tuesday for a state championship by knocking off Cheyenne Mountain’s Payton Fielding 6-1, 7-5.

Fielding won state titles at No. 2 singles her freshman and sophomore years but took last year off to study abroad in France. This year, she was asked to step into the No. 1 singles spot and in the second set of Tuesday’s match gave Burger all the competition she could handle.

“I just kept fighting,” Burger replied when asked how she was able to overcome the Cheyenne Mountain senior in a 7-5 set to close out the match. “It was tough.”

Coach John Aragon said Burger played her game in the first set, but Fielding adjusted and forced Burger to start playing the senior’s game in the second set.

“I expected it to be a tough match,” Aragon said. “But I knew that if Tatum played where she was using the full court and really working her feet and staying aggressive, I knew it would be tough for that girl to stay with her just movement wise.”

In the second set, Burger started hitting the ball to the middle of the court, and Fielding used it to her advantage.

But Burger, who was down 5-4 in the set, took some advice for coach Aragon during a break.

“He told me to start serving the ball wide to create more angles and to regain control of the match,” Burger said. “I think I was hitting the ball short and then she put it away on me. I knew that I needed to do something because I did not want to go to a third set.”

The victory means that Burger is in a position to become just the second girl from Steamboat Springs to bring home a state singles title, and the first to bring home a title at No.1 singles, according to Aragon. Burger is also undefeated and will try to close out a perfect season in the championship match.

“If Tatum goes out and plays like she is capable and controls the points early, I think she should do well,” Aragon said. “It should be a good match.”

Four other Steamboat players attempted to extend their season by another day Tuesday but fell short in the playback round.

Steamboat’s Shae Burger and Norma Techarukpong made a solid run at No. 3 singles. The team was pulled back in when Cheyenne Mountain advanced to the finals Tuesday morning. Shae Burger and Techarukpong then knocked off Colorado Academy earning a shot against Valor Christian to qualify for Wednesday mornings third- and fourth-place match.

“It was pretty exciting to get another chance,” Shea Burger said. “We just wanted to make sure we stayed positive the whole time.”

Despite the early success, the team could not overcome Valor Christian in the next match and fell just short of the goal of making it to the final day of the state tournament.

The story was the same for Steamboat’s No. 4 doubles team of Annika Fahrner and Shannon Ross, who also earned another shot after D’Evelyn advanced in the state brackets.

Fahrner and Ross faced Palmer Ridge in the final, and the two teams split the first two sets. But despite a strong push at the end of the third set, the Sailors fell 7-5 ending their state tournament just short of the final day.

“This has been a really good state tournament for our young team,” Aragon said. “I think we gained some valuable experience, and these young girls are going to come back next year even stronger.

Cheyenne Mountain had secured the team title, its seventh straight, by Tuesday afternoon with 61 points. Colorado Academy held second place with 37 points and a possible 9 more on the final day of the tournament. That team will have to hold off Kent Denver, which had 34 points, but could earn as many as 14 in the finals.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966

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