Like a dream: Steamboat No. 1 doubles defeats rival, advances to state tennis championship
The Steamboat Springs girls tennis No. 1 doubles tandem of juniors Evan Quinn and Kelsey Norland has not beaten Vail Christian all season.
Heading into the state tournament in Colorado Springs on Friday, May 12, the pair was 0-3 against the Gore Rangers, including a loss in the Western Slope regional finals last week.
After winning their first-round match against St. Mary’s Academy 6-0, 6-2, the Sailors faced their season-long kryptonite, Vail Christian, in the second round.
The culmination of all the players’ hard work was realized in that moment, as for the first time, Steamboat came through to win the match 6-3, 6-4.
“This actually means everything to both of us,” Quinn said. “We have played that team three times this season and haven’t beat them. They have two losses all year, and one of them was against us today.”
After losing the opening game, the Steamboat athletes regained focus and began to get in a groove. With every point they won, their confidence grew, and before they knew it, they had dominated the opening set.
“After winning the first set, there is a lot more pressure on us because we have to live up to the expectation we set,” Norland said. “That is always tough too.”
The girls explained that it can be easy to get amped and lose focus after taking a 1-0 lead. The worst thing to do is give up the momentum, and that fear became reality to start the second set. Norland’s serve was broken, and almost immediately the girls found themselves down 3-0.
“I was in my head starting off with a break on my serve,” Norland said. “I got flustered and carried that with me for the next couple games.”
To get each other back in the game, the girls bantered back and forth to remain calm, and they joked with each other while offering words of encouragement.
Norland said that they clicked early in the season and have always had great chemistry, but the communication in this match was the best it has been all season.
While a teammate’s encouragement is vital, the girls also sought the advice of coach Bill Conway after going down 3-0 in the second.
“All we see is the errors we are making, but Bill talks about the errors (the other team’s players) are making and how we can make them make more errors,” Quinn said. “It is really uplifting and puts your mind on something else other than your mistakes.”
The advice from Conway worked, and after a hard-fought battle against Vail, the wind and themselves, Steamboat pulled off the two-set sweep.
The Sailors No. 1 doubles team advanced to the semifinal match against D’Evelyn, and with a 6-2, 6-2 win, they will move on to the state championship finals on Saturday, May 13.
Steamboat’s No. 1 and No. 2 singles players in freshman Lucia del Haya and junior Grace Brice were unable to reach Saturday with del Haya falling to Vail Christian in the first playback and Brice losing to D’Evelyn in the first round.
The No. 2 and No. 3 doubles squads suffered similar fates with the teams exiting in the second and first round respectively.
All eyes will be on Quinn and Norland Saturday morning.
“We never imagined it was possible,” Quinn said. “I feel like I’m dreaming.”
To reach Tom Skulski, call 970-871-4240, email tskulski@SteamboatPilot.com.
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