Sailors back on top at regional tennis
When Jack Burger was playing, the Steamboat Springs High School boys tennis team winning the regional tournament was barely more significant than the sun coming up in the morning and the snow coming down in the winter.
The Sailors won 14 consecutive regional titles from 1998 to 2011, and Burger, now coaching the Sailors, played on four of those teams.
After three years finishing second to rival Aspen, Steamboat climbed back to that top step Friday, going head to head with Aspen to win regionals once again.
“This was huge for them,” Burger said. “This was our goal all season, and the guys really stepped up. It was awesome.”
The Sailors will send 10 players — two singles players and all four doubles teams — to the state tournament, which begins Thursday in Pueblo. Friday at Regionals in Grand Junction, Steamboat won championships in four divisions, each win coming against Aspen.
The Sailors got wins at No. 2 singles from Charlie Smith, No. 1 doubles from Matthew White and Joe Borgerding, No. 2 doubles from Max Lynch and Ethan Paulus and No. 3 doubles from Nolan Connell and River Fox-Welch.
The way the timing worked, it was Lynch and Paulus who made the difference. With two matches still on the courts, Steamboat needed to win one and got it at No. 2 doubles, where the pair rallied to win late. They trailed 5-4 in the third set, just a few points from a defeat which would have in turn sunk the whole team. They managed to come back and close out the win, however.
“They were great,” Burger said. “Our whole team was watching, and so was Aspen’s. It was a lot more exciting to watch as a coach, and I was a lot more nervous than I ever was as a player.”
The team will also send its No. 3 singles player, Chase Adams, to state. Adams advanced to the finals this week but lost to finish second. He secured his spot at state, however.
The No. 4 doubles team, with Peter Wharton and Jack Bender, made the cut, as well, losing in the finals, then defeating a Vail Christian squad in a playback match to earn the trip to Pueblo.
The team’s only hiccup came at No. 1 singles, where Teague Burger lost to an Aspen player in the semifinals in a tight three-set match.
“That was the most incredible match of the whole tournament,” said Jack Burger of his younger brother, Teague. “He should be really proud.”
Jack Burger said the whole team has reason to be proud.
“This is great for the program,” he said. “We have a lot of young players on the team, and they are already excited about doing this again next year.”
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