Connell, Fox-Welch lead Sailors at state tennis

Joel Reichenberger

— They lost an epic match Thursday night on the first day of the Class 4A state tennis tournament, but Steamboat Springs High Schools’ No. 3 doubles team of Nolan Connell and River Fox-Welch turned the tables Friday, winning twice in the consolation bracket.

Now they’ll play Saturday for the chance to claim third place, the best finish by a Steamboat Springs entry since 2013.

“They did a really good job,” Steamboat assistant coach Louis Nijsten said. “They have great confidence going into the third-place finals tomorrow.”

Connell and Fox-Welch lost Thursday in three tough sets against Kent Denver, but in that loss may have been the seeds of their Friday success. Nijsten said it instilled them with confidence.

First, they blasted a pair from Pueblo County, Terren Chavez and Devin Sciumbata, in two sets, 6-0, 6-2. Later, they took out an Air Academy duo, Kyle Pieri and Ryan Henley, 6-2, 6-3.

That all earned them the chance to play Saturday morning against Ryan Ruppert and Mike Dashiell, of Cheyenne Mountain, who won their own three-set marathon to make the consolation finals.

“They were playing so well, and they didn’t miss much,” Nijsten said. “They had great serving and just played really well.”

Steamboat had two other entries play Friday, and both put up strong fights in losing efforts.

The No. 1 doubles team, with Matt White and Joe Borgerding, led the way Thursday, earning its way to the semifinals. It did so by winning both of its matches in three sets. Friday morning, playing for the chance to go to the championship match, the pair again went to three sets, but this time couldn’t manage the win, falling to a team from Colorado Academy 7-6, 5-7, 6-2.

The Sailors had their chances, leading the first set 5-1 at one point, but couldn’t hold off Colorado Academy.

They then lost yet another three-set match in the consolation semifinals to a Dawson School team, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4.

“It was a thriller match,” Nijsten of the championship semifinals. “They really came out firing, but the other guys came up with some really solid serving. It was a great atmosphere. All the other teams were watching and rooting for us, because we looked like the underdogs.

“They played really well, but just came up a little short.”

The No. 4 doubles team with Jack Bender and Peter Wharton got back into the action Friday after going 1-1 on Thursday, but couldn’t get any momentum. They fell to an Evergreen duo in a close, two-set match, 6-4, 7-6.

“Overall, it’s been a great tournament,” Nijsten said. “The fact that we’re playing on the final day is huge, and if things go well, we’ll go home with a third place, which is pretty impressive.”

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

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