Stempel steps into No. 1 role as Steamboat boys tennis hosts Fruita Monument
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Wyatt Stempel could have gotten overconfident.
With every point the Steamboat Springs High School senior tennis player earned, his opponent out of Fruita Monument reacted negatively. Wayne Aggen shouted, threw his racket or raised his hands to his backwards white hat. Stempel just smirked as he powered his way to a 7-5 victory in set one.
“I just laugh at it, play it off,” he said of Aggen’s antics.
Unfortunately for Stempel, Aggen had the last laugh, winning out in a dramatic tiebreaker, helping Fruita to a 7-0 sweep Friday, Sept. 20, at the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs.
Stempel sported a poofy pony on the top of his head, as he collected the top third of his hair in a fashion that resembled a large cotton ball or perhaps a fishing fly. It kept his blonde locks out of his eyes, allowing him to focus all the more intensely on the game.
In the opening set, Stempel used his swift serve and brawny backhand to outlast Aggen.
“I was just being consistent in placement and making sure the ball goes where I want it to,” he said. “And just taking it slow in the beginning and building.”
What was working before for the Sailor, slipped away in set two. Aggen was still emotional, but this time, pumping his fist and shouting in celebration as he won 6-1, forcing a tiebreaker.
The tiebreaker was stressfully close, going back and forth until Aggen held a 9-8 advantage. Stempel served, Aggen returned. Two hits later, Stempel lunged to reach the ball, but fell over in pain as he missed it, grabbing his left leg, which he had been stretching throughout the final frame. It was just a cramp, but added to the dramatic conclusion of the competition.
“In the first set, the focus was amazing. He was locked in on everything he did,” Steamboat head coach Bill Conway said. “The second set, he drifted, and that’s really hard. Nobody can really focus hard for 2 1/2 hours, and that’s how long his match was. What was most impressive was in his tiebreaker, he brought his focus back.”
Conway was also impressed with how Stempel built his points, using angles and power as an occasional weapon, rather than on every ball.
Stempel’s skill and composure were all the more impressive considering he spent last year at a boarding school and didn’t step on a tennis court.
“I wasn’t doing super well in school,” Stempel said. “Substance abuse, anxiety, stuff like that.”
Upon returning to Steamboat, Stempel gripped a racket again and was thrilled to see he essentially picked up where he left off. With that, Stempel was named the No. 1 singles player for the Sailors.
“Before Wyatt went to boarding school, he was one of the more talented players, and he hits a great ball,” Conway said. “When he came back, Wyatt found the work ethic that he didn’t have before he went away. With me, you earn it. If you are playing one, you have absolutely earned one, and he has earned his position.”
- Aug. 22: at Grand Junction
- Aug. 23-24: at Fruita-Monument
- Aug. 30: at Loveland
- Sept. 5-7: at Grand Junction
- Sept. 14: vs. Rocky Mountain, 11 a.m.
- Sept. 21: vs. Fruita Monument, 3:30 p.m.
- Sept. 25: at Basalt
- Oct. 1: at Aspen
- Oct. 5: vs. Kent Denver, 10 a.m.
The competitive nature of the No. 1 singles bout was unmatched, but improvements were seen on every court. Conway said the match against Fruita Monument came at the end of the best week of practice his team has had all season.
“We’ve had the best week of practice with energy and movement. We introduced signals like poaching, which is when you cut across the net, and they did all that,” he said.
The positive changes are coming at the right time, as the Sailors are about to enter the thick of conference play, next facing Basalt on Wednesday, Sept. 25.
Fruita Monument 7, Steamboat Springs 0
Singles: 1, Wayne Aggen, FM, def. Wyatt Stempel, SS, 5-7, 6-1, 10-8. 2, Brandon Miller, FM, def. Matheus Mercuri, SS, 6-0, 6-1. 3, Trigg Hayward, FM, def. Nash Whittington, SS, 6-0, 6-4.
Doubles: 1, Jake Heer and August Pomrenke, FM, def. Dylan Dietrich and Kyle Saunders, SS, 6-0, 6-3. 2, KC Davis and Ryan Davis, FM, def. Xander Dalke and Gabe Gray, SS, 6-3, 6-2. 3, Colby O’Day and Micah Hanly, FM, def. Joey Westmeyer and Eli Ince, SS, 6-2, 6-0. 4, Michael Lake and Bryce Watson, 6-1, 6-0.
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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Steamboat Free Summer Concerts announced Friday that it will return live music to the Yampa Valley this summer in the form of two concerts scheduled for August and September.