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Sailors tennis hoping to have fun in shortened season

Steamboat Springs sophomore Gabe Gray makes contact with the ball during a practice at the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs on Monday, Aug. 17.
Shelby Reardon

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Sophomore Gabe Gray describes junior Nash Whittington as the role model of the Steamboat Springs High School boys tennis team.

“Unwilling role model,” Whittington interjected. 

“He’s still our top player,” said Gray.

Whittington is slated to be the No. 1 singles player for the Sailors this fall. Despite feeling pressure to perform well, Whittington expects the season to be more casual than usual, since there are a ton of newcomers and the season is so much shorter. 

The young team will have just five weeks to cram in a handful of tournaments and regionals before, hopefully, sending players to state on Sept. 26. 

“It puts some pressure on us because it makes us learn quicker and try harder, which is good,” said Gray. “It’s not as long, but I like just being out here and hitting with everyone.”

Eliot Guin didn’t have the chance to coach the Steamboat Springs girls tennis team for long in the spring. He’s back though, looking to lead the boys team through the limited season. 

Fewer tournaments means less warmup time built into the season. Every match matters more than they usually do. Guin said he isn’t implementing major changes to adjust his team to a shorter fall, but he’s definitely applying more pressure to his players. 

“The season’s not that long anyways. If we get six weeks instead of two months, there’s not that much more we can do with it. We’re trying to do more pressure simulation in practice right off the bat, instead of working our way through matches and letting them get that experience there.”

Steamboat Springs Tennis

2020 schedule (subject to change)
Thursday: Vail at Steamboat, 2 p.m.
Saturday: at Fruita
Aug. 27: Home match, 1 p.m.
Aug. 29: at Grand Junction
Sept. 5: at Loveland, 10 a.m.; Mountain View, 2 p.m.
Sept. 12: Home match, 11 a.m.
Sept. 18: Regionals at Grand Junction
Sept. 26: State

Guin pointed to his team that was working on serves. If they miss, they have to run around the net to get a new ball and try again. If they make it, they move up to the net and go again. With the 10 or so players all doing the same thing, it looked like chaos. Everyone was in motion, trying to be the first one to complete the exercise. 

Senior Dylan Dietrich is looking forward to having more than one match a week for the next month. 

“I personally like the quick pace,” he said. “It’s going to be a grind. It’s going to be fun.”

Steamboat Springs junior Nash Whittington returns the ball during a practice at the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs on Monday, Aug. 17.
Shelby Reardon

Whittington is hoping it’ll be a complete and fun season, rather than a serious one. Still, he’s nervous about taking the spot as the No. 1 singles player for the Sailors. 

While the upperclassmen are the most experienced in years, Gray is the only returner who spent time at the state tournament last year. He lost in the first round with No. 2 doubles partner Xander Dalke. 

In an attempt to keep the season as normal as possible, Guin hopes his team can spend as much time outside as possible, both for practices and matches. 

“We’ll keep it outside, so we don’t have to wear masks, but spectators will,” he said.

The season will start Thursday at home against Vail before the Sailors head to Fruita this weekend.

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


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