Under new management, Sailors girls tennis returns a few strong players | SteamboatToday.com

Under new management, Sailors girls tennis returns a few strong players

The Steamboat Springs girls tennis team warms up ahead of a practice on Wednesday, Marc 4 at the Tennis Center.
Shelby Reardon

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Steamboat Springs girls tennis team is coming off an incredibly successful season in which all positions qualified for state. That probably won’t happen again this year.

Not only did the squad lose a handful of seniors to graduation, but Mae Thorp, the No. 1 singles player, and Morgan Sauerbrey, half of the No. 1 doubles team, graduated early.

“Since we have only 11 cleared for the team and not all have played tennis, I doubt all of us will win regionals or go to state,” said senior Kara Stanhope.

First-year head coach Eliot Guin said he had just six girls on the roster ahead of the first practice on Monday, March 2. The rest of the roster quickly filled in though, just in time for the first competition in Grand Junction on Friday, March 6.

With many newcomers joining the squad, it’ll be a rebuilding year for the Sailors tennis team. Still, there is a solid returning core in seniors Lauren Erhlich, Stanhope and sophomore Lauren Fullerton.

With Sauerbrey not returning, Ehrlich loses her doubles partner of three years. She’s hoping to play singles this year, and Guin said she’s a candidate for the No. 1 spot.

“My goal is to play singles this year and see how far I can go,” she said. 

As a freshman, Fullerton was in the No. 2 doubles pairing. With her former partner Liesel Wilkinson not returning to the team, she, too, is interested in playing singles after playing at the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs all winter. 

“I think I learned a lot from it, and I kind of like playing singles more because last year, I played doubles,” said Fullerton. “I definitely need to get my confidence and my mental side in check. With that, my play becomes a lot better. I think, physically I’m there, but mentally I have to learn how to control myself.”

Steamboat Springs junior Kara Stanhope goes for a backcourt shot during the Class 3A No. 4 doubles state semifinal match on Saturday, May 11, at Centennial Park in Greeley.
Leah Vann

Stanhope played  in the No. 4 doubles pairing last year, making it as far as the state semifinal match.

No one will really know what Guin is thinking position-wise until Friday when the team travels to Grand Junction. Then things will start to take shape. 

“I think the first thing is we have to go to Grand Junction, which is the farthest that we travel for tennis, so it’s like the first one, boom,”  said Stanhope. “It’s tough because the team is not fully together.”

Fullerton said she’s excited to step on the court for the first time this season and see where everyone stands. She said she’s looking at it as a learning experience since the Sailors haven’t had a full week of practice yet.

“We can’t put too much pressure on ourselves,” she said. “I think we should relax and have fun and honestly, I think you play better that way. We should just be excited for what we can do and see how we do.”

After two years under the guidance of Kristyn Wykert, Guin is taking over as head coach. Fullerton, Ehrlich and Stanhope agree that Guin is so similar to their former coach, that the transition has been smooth.

Guin, originally from Denver, moved to Steamboat in October looking for a mountain town where he could still be involved in tennis. A job at the Tennis Center provided exactly what he was looking for. While he’s coached at previous tennis clubs, he’s never headed a high school team. 

“I’m confident that I know enough about tennis and that I’ve coached enough that I’m not worried about that aspect of it,” he said. “I’m a little nervous about all the other stuff that goes on in between like planning all the hotels, matches. … That part is more of the unknown territory for me.”

March 6: at Fruita Monument
March 7: at Grand Junction
March 13: home tournament
March 14: home tournament
March 17: Basalt at Steamboat
March 19: at Evergreen
March 26: at Durango
March 27-28: at Grand Junction tourney
March 31: at APEX Tennis Center
April 3: at Eaton
April 11: at Aspen
April 16: at Vail
May 2: Thompson Valley at Steamboat

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

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