Sailors No. 1 doubles team takes fourth at state championships
The Steamboat Springs No. 1 doubles pair of Liesel Wilkinson and Amanda Dietrich did not expect to do so well at the Colorado High School Activities Association 3A state tennis tournament.
They weren’t necessarily being pessimistic, just realistic.
Wilkinson, a senior, had gone to state before and lost in the first round. Dietrich, a sophomore, was attending state for the first time and just trying to keep her cool.
“I was expecting it to be an experience, but I never thought we would make it that far,” said Dietrich. “I thought we were going to get out in the first round.”
With low expectations and high nerves, the Sailors battled through a three set opening match against Peak to Peak. Steamboat won the first set 7-6, then lost 7-5. Wilkinson and Dietrich won out 6-4 in the third set.
“There would be games where we would be on and games we were not doing as well,” Dietrich said of the first match. “If we were both on in that game, we could have won a lot quicker.”
With the win, confidence climbed.
The pair moved on to play the Dawson No. 1 doubles team, which won over the Sailors 7-6 in the opening set. Steamboat dominated set two 6-0 and won 6-4 to close out the victory after yet another long match.
“We didn’t get down on ourselves when we started to lose,” Wilkinson said. “We had good teamwork and kept talking to each other. Even when we were messing up shots we stayed strong and kept our heads up.”
That sent the Sailors to the semifinals where they faced two girls from Holy Family. Wilkinson and Dietrich lost, but in two close 6-4 sets.
From there, they played a familiar opponent for third place. The Sailors were facing Vail Mountain, a team they had seen twice already in the spring and lost to in the regional finals 6-4, 7-5.
Dietrich and Wilkinson are strong at the net and play up front a lot. The Gore Rangers noted that and lobbed a lot in regionals, getting the ball to unreachable territory behind the Sailors. Steamboat was ready for that. Even so, the Gore Rangers played the best they had all year and won 6-1, 6-0.
“The two teams they did lose to, just played better than them,” said coach Bill Conway. “It wasn’t that they played poorly.”
The fourth place finish from the Sailors is the best finish from a doubles team in years and was even more impressive since the Steamboat girls tennis team didn’t even field a full team this year.
“We started out with not enough girls, girls that had only played for one or two years. They overcame every expectation,” said Conway. ‘We only had one line that didn’t have a winning record. We got third in a tournament without enough players. We got fifth at regionals with not enough players. We had three opportunities to go to state. This season as a whole, it was a dramatic success.”
Shelby Reardon is the assistant editor at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach her, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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