Steamboat girls tennis kicks off season with solid home-openers
Steamboat Springs — The Steamboat Springs High School girls tennis team has just a week of practice under its belt this season, but the Sailors wasted little time jumping into competition with their first 2014 matches Friday and Saturday.
Steamboat will have just one more host match of the season as the schedule plays out, an April 8 date with Vail Mountain.
The Sailors picked up a season-opening win against Boulder on Friday night and followed it up with a solid performance from their young squad Saturday against Evergreen.
Season practice isn’t more than a week old and Sailors coach John Aragon said his squad has some things to shake out, but he’s pleased with the early progress the group is showing.
“We’re still trying to match up and see where we’re at with our doubles,” Aragon said. “Our singles are set right now. But they came out and worked hard for every point, competed and had great attitudes.”
Steamboat senior and No. 1 singles player Ellie Bender followed up her win Friday night by making quick work of Evergreen’s Lena Wagner, cruising to a 6-1, 6-1 victory.
Bender — who said she has a conditioning head start after training for much of the winter for the spring season — wants to see the team repeat as regional champion and get back into the state championship mix.
And as the team’s new No. 1 singles player, there’s a bit of pressure riding on Bender, who competed as the No. 2 Sailor last year.
“I definitely did feel pressure Friday, but I realized after a couple sets that I’m ready,” Bender said. “I know it will be more challenging than last year, but I’m ready for that challenge.”
Steamboat’s No. 2 singles player, fellow senior Kira Lorenzen, battled in close sets with Kelli Keegan, of Evergreen, before falling, 6-4, 6-4, on Saturday.
“Ellie and Kira are coming together and really wanting to help these younger players,” Aragon said about his two senior leaders. “The more they work with those younger players, the better our team will be.”
Sophomore Maddie Labor, Steamboat’s No. 3 singles player, won in dominant fashion, 6-1, 6-0, on Saturday.
In doubles play, the most thrilling match of the afternoon proved to be one of the remaining contests on the court with Steamboat’s No. 1 team of junior Hannah Haggarty and freshman Emmie Thompson, who dropped a first-set tiebreaker but came from behind to win, 6-4, 11-9.
Sabina Berend and Maddie Thompson paired up to win Steamboat’s No. 2 doubles match and the Lily Petersen-Sydney Boyd combo won in No. 3 doubles, 6-0, 6-1.
The weekend was Steamboat’s first test of the season, and the girls will be back in action Friday at Aspen. Looking ahead, Aragon said the Sailors’ tough schedule hopefully will shape the team into the program’s 11th regional title holders.
“We booked some of the top teams in the state from 5A and 4A,” Aragon said. “We go to Fort Collins and play Ralston Valley. We will be playing some big, strong programs, and I’m hoping by the time we meet some of those schools these kids keep that same attitude.”
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Editor’s note: The story was updated at 8:33 p.m.