Sailors tennis kicks off fall sports with tough matches against Vail Christian |

Sailors tennis kicks off fall sports with tough matches against Vail Christian

Nash Whittington returns the ball to his opponent in a match against Vail Christian at the Tennis Center at the Tennis Center at Steamboat on Thursday, Aug. 20.
Shelby Reardon

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The first day of any season is hard. The first day with a new doubles partner is hard. The first day with a new partner in the No. 1 doubles slot is really hard, especially when it’s your first time meeting each other. 

Sophomore Xander Dalke moved up from the No. 2 doubles spot he held last year, to the No. 1 spot. Thursday’s match against Vail Christian was the first time Dalke met his partner: Caleb Grommeck, a new freshman at Steamboat Springs High School who just moved to town. 

“It went better than I thought it would,” said Grommeck. “We definitely had a few chemistry issues in terms of who calls shot and we got kind of mixed up.” 

The team surrendered set one 6-1, and set two 6-2. 

Vail Christian won all but one of the matches, but considering many of the Sailors were in their first-ever tennis competition, Steamboat head coach Elliot Guin was still pleased with what he saw from his team. 

“It’s not the result we wanted, but I’m happy with the way the day went,” he said. “We have a lot of positives we can look at.” 

The day was exciting regardless of outcome since it was the first day of competition for any Sailors athletics. 

There were no handshakes before or after the matches. The introductions were done from a distance while everyone wore masks. Balls were divided between the teams, three designated to the Sailor side, three designated to the Vail side. 

Since the matches were played outside, players didn’t need to wear masks, but balls flew outside of courts. When a ball was batted over the fence at the No. 1 doubles match, a woman sent sure what to do when it rolled to her. 

“Can I touch it?” she asked no one in particular. The nearest player nodded, so she tossed it back.

Nash Whittington, who reluctantly took the top singles spot, looked comfortable on the court.

He won his first set against Vail Christian’s Leo Yang 6-3, using a wicked serve and quick feet. He and his opponent spent an hour and a half dashing back and forth across the court. 

“I was just hitting a high, heavy spin to his backhand,” said Whittington. 

Whittington lost to Yang last year in No. 3 singles, but with a 6-4 win in the second set, earned a victory. Whittington said he wasn’t able to hit the aggressive shots he wanted to. To win against Yang, he simply stuck with it and was always the last one standing after a long volley. 

At the end of the match, another Vail player predicted Whittington would win state. The Sailor took the comment with a grain of salt, but admitted, it was good to hear. 

Whittington was the only Sailor to earn a win. At No. 2 singles, Gabe Gray fell 6-1, 6-4 and No. 3 singles player Dylan Dietrich fell 6-0, 6-0. In doubles, the No. 2 pairing of Eli Ince and Fisher St. John lost in back-to-back sets with scores of 6-1. In their tennis debuts, Luke St. John and Jaxon Fryer fell 6-0, 6-2. 

“These two guys (Fryer and Luke St. John) came to us this week and four or five practies and were able to play a match and have good points,” said Guin. “That’s much easier said than done. I’m proud of those guys.”

Guin gave Gray a shoutout at the end-of-match gathering, commending his tenacity in the second set.

“He stood out to me today because he kind of got out of his comfort zone,” said Guin. “His game is more attack all the time and I asked him to be a little more patient in the second set and he got a lot more games. He tried something new. Even though he didn’t win it, he found some success there.”

Vail Christian 5, Steamboat Springs 1
Singles: 1, Nash Whittington 6-3, 6-4. 2, Gabe Gray 1-6, 4-6. 3, Dylan Dietrich 0-6, 0-6. Doubles: 1, Xander Dalke and Caleb Grommeck 1-6, 2-6. 2, Eli ince and Fisher St. John 1-6, 1-6. 3, Luke St. John and Jaxon Fryer 0-6, 2-6.

To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.

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