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Steamboat boys’ tennis hungry for state under new head coach

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — When the job for Steamboat Springs High School Sailors boys head tennis coach opened up, Bill Conway had no question in his mind that he wanted it.

Joseph O’Dell coached last year, and he did a great job,” Conway said. “And he got a job in Albuquerque, New Mexico, so with him leaving, I was like, ‘OK, I need to do this for our players.’”

Conway inherits athletes he helped grow through the junior program at the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs, where he and his wife, Loretta, serve as co-directors, so his expectations are high. He tells two athletes to get off the bench and stand up when he’s talking, then he asks that others don’t slow down when running from one court to the next in a drill.

I’ve worked with colleges and helped coached there at that level,” Conway said. “I haven’t coached high school in years, and it was funny, my wife told me it’s the same drive, same expectation, smaller skill set.”

But this year’s team has a lot of potential with the addition of freshman Andy Schuiling, who stands as No. 1 in Colorado in the 14-year-old age group.

Standing next to senior Ethan Paulus, Schuiling starts listing his goals.

“I want to win state, and if not, I just want to make the semifinals of state,” Schuiling said.

“Wait, you’re 14? When do you turn 15?” Paulus said.

“The 20th,” Paulus said.

Paulus and Schuiling battled it out for the No. 1 singles spot on the team, and the freshman prevailed, but Paulus, who took second at regionals last year, is at No. 2.

“Him losing to Andy and dropping to No. 2 makes our team even stronger.” Conway said.

That’s the kind of ammo a team needs to face Kent Denver and Regis high schools, which have dominated the state championships for years. Steamboat will face both for the first time in years.

Steamboat boys tennis

Aug. 18: vs. Grand Junction, 11 a.m.
Aug. 24-25: at Fruita Monument, TBD
Aug. 30: at Regis Jesuit, 5 p.m.
Aug. 31: at Loveland, 8 a.m.
Sept. 6: at Durango, TBD
Sept. 7-8: at Grand Junction, TBD
Sept. 14: vs. Evergreen, 5 p.m.
Sept. 15: vs. Fruita Monument, noon
Sept. 22: vs. Basalt, 11 a.m.
Sept. 25: at Aspen, noon
Sept. 29: vs. Kent Denver, 10 a.m.

In the meantime, Conway is looking to grow each player’s technical and mental skills.

Andy’s biggest thing is going to be his mental side of the game. If he can keep his mental fortitude and stay low when he plays, there aren’t very many people who can beat him,” Conway said. “Ethan is a very subdued individual, we need a little more intensity out of Ethan. Skill-wise, it’s just a matter of better points of contact, his serve needs to be a little stronger.”

He notes that junior Gabe Rabanal, who currently holds the No. 3 singles spot, has grown the furthest over the years. Rabanal started on the fourth doubles team, then played No. 2 doubles last year and will play singles this year. Rabanal and Paulus also demonstrate the mental toughness needed to not let bad points get to them.

“Gabe and Ethan’s biggest attributes of playing is they don’t get upset,” Conway said. “They could be playing horribly, and if you watch them, you wouldn’t know — they could be winning Wimbledon.”

Paulus said he’s trying to put more into his work ethic so he can end his high school career on a high note.

“Definitely, an exciting season since it’s my last one,” Paulus said. “I think we can go pretty far and maybe win regionals and do good in state. That’s one of my biggest goals.”

But he also said tennis is just fun for him. That’s something Conway hopes all of his athletes remember.

“Challenges with every player at this age is serving and the mental side of the game,” Conway said. “We’ve been spending a lot of time talking about: what do we want our team to represent when we walk on the court? Do we want the work ethic to show? Do we want the integrity to show? Those are the things I am more concerned about.”

To reach Leah Vann, call 970-871-4253, email lvann@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @LVann_Sports.


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