Lessons aplenty for young Sailors’ tennis squad | SteamboatToday.com

Lessons aplenty for young Sailors’ tennis squad

A young squad of Steamboat Springs High School tennis players is making progress, coach Joseph O'Dell said, and he saw plenty of that progress Friday and Saturday at what's annually one of the team's toughest weekends.

The Sailors competed at the Western Slope Open in Grand Junction. The tournament draws 16 teams, many of them among the top Class 5A squads in Colorado.

"We had a couple of teams and singles players that did well, better than expectations," O'Dell said.

The No. 2 doubles team with Gave Rabanal and Kyle Nilsson placed sixth. Singles players Ethan Paulus, playing No. 1 singles, and Wyatt Stempel, No. 2 singles, also finished in the top half of their draws.

The team has plenty of learning to do early this season. The squad graduated eight seniors, seven who were fixtures in the varsity lineup and an eighth who got plenty of varsity matches.

That's forced plenty of changes for this year's squad. Players like Paulus, Stempel and No. 3 singles player Roy Lundeen all logged varsity minutes last year, but now have gone from filling spots on doubles pairs to playing in the team's top singles spots.

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"We're very young," O'Dell said. "Everyone got pushed up the lineup this year, so a lot of kids are playing higher and have more weight on their shoulders."

That inexperience had led to mixed results early this season. The team was sixth in a Grand Junction tournament late last month. It then lost duals against Fort Collins, Grand Junction. Fruita Monument and Silver Creek.

It put things together Thursday against Durango, winning that dual 5-2.

"The kids are getting used to varsity competition and they're doing exactly what we're asking of them, picking up a lot of doubles strategy and learning a lot," O'Dell said.

The team is coming up on a big stretch of home matches. It plays at home Friday against Evergreen, then Saturday against Fruita.

Next week it will then play host to a triangular against regional rivals Vail Mountain and Aspen.

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

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