Sailors hope to send 11 to State |

Sailors hope to send 11 to State

Luke Graham

Steamboat Springs' Jeff Lambart returns a volley against Silver Creek's Phil Milspaugh on the opening day of last year's state 4A high school tennis championships at Pueblo City Park. Lambart will be looking to get back to state this weekend when Steamboat Springs High School hosts the regional tennis tournament at the Tennis Center at Steamboat.

The Steamboat Springs High School tennis team has clear goals heading into Friday and Saturday’s regional tournament.

Anything less than winning and sending the majority of the team to the state champion-ships would be considered a letdown.

After all, the Sailors have been regional champions for more than a decade. Add in that this year’s tournament is on the team’s home courts at the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs – with play beginning both days at 9 a.m. – and it’s a foregone conclusion what this Steamboat team wants.

“We always talk about going 11 deep at state,” Steamboat coach John Aragon said. “When you can take a full team to state, it definitely helps your chances of placing in the top five.”

Although Aragon said he’s stressing to his young Sailors team not to overlook anyone, it’s hard not to put Steamboat as the odds-on favorite to win.

Steamboat’s primary competition in the six-team region will be from Aspen and Montrose. This year, Steamboat beat Aspen, 6-1, and Montrose, 7-0.

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The lone loss for the Sailors against the Aspen Skiers came at No. 1 singles, when freshman Jamey Swiggart battled a bad back all day.

After some rest and a trip to the chiropractor, Swiggart should be as close to full strength as he has been all year.

“It’s a lot better now,” said Swiggart, who previously beat the No. 1 singles player from Aspen, 6-1, 6-2, before his back injury.

Still, it might be interesting to see how a young Sailors team plays on a big stage. Aragon said nerves will be part of the tournament. With only four seniors on the roster, Steamboat will take its youngest team in years into the tournament.

“We have seniors to keep the young kids in a right mental state,” said senior Ben Paley, who, along with fellow senior Zach Valicenti, will compete at No. 3 doubles. “We just want to make sure no one chokes under pressure. We all have to play really well.”

In addition to Paley and Valicenti, the Sailors will look for leadership from senior Alex Gibbs and junior Jeff Lambart.

Despite the team’s age, most of the Sailors have experienced the atmosphere of regional and state tournaments.

That, coupled with the confidence Steamboat brings into this weekend, has Aragon excited for the two-day event.

“To get everyone (to state), they are going to have to believe in themselves,” Aragon said. “They are going to have to go play with a purpose. If they can do that and use their athleticism, it will take care of itself.”

State team projections

No. 1 singles – Jamey Swiggart

No. 2 singles – Keegan Burger

No. 3 singles – Jeff Lambart

No. 1 doubles – Jack Burger and Charlie Smith

No. 2 doubles – Mirko Erspamer and Alex Gibbs

No. 3 doubles – Zach Valicenti and Ben Paley

No. 4 doubles – Vladen Chase and Erik Sortland

If you go

What: Regional tennis tournament

When: Play begins at 9 a.m. Friday and Saturday

Where: Tennis Center at Steamboat

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