Steamboat Springs Steamboat Springs tennis player Joe Cutler doesn't have a lot of experience playing singles at the high school level, but he has already proven that he can win.
In three matches this season, Culter's first year as a singles player, the baseball-cap clad junior has posted a 2-1 record and is eagerly anticipating the rest of the 2000 campaign.
The two victories came Saturday, a 6-1, 6-0 win over Thompson Valley's Jayme Partan and a 6-3, 6-3 win over Poudre's Brad Simons. The Steamboat Springs High School boys tennis team beat both of the schools, which are in the 5A classification, in tight matches.
"It's not really an adjustment," a confident Cutler said of the move from doubles to singles. "I spent a lot of time traveling around the state this summer and I spent a lot of time playing singles."
He was quick to point out, however, that playing singles has been very different from his experience as a doubles player in Steamboat.
"When you're playing singles you can go for broke," he said. "When you are playing doubles you have to play it a little safer since you have a teammate counting on you. You also have to have quick hands and there is a lot more net play."
Cutler spent the last two years playing doubles for the Sailors, but on Saturday he looked like he has been alone on the court his entire career. Cutler took a very methodical approach to besting his opponents.
"The first guy I played was really streaky," Cutler said. "I just wanted to keep the ball in play, cut down on any mistakes and bat a real good shot when I got the opportunity."
The conservative approach paid off as the Steamboat player posted an easy win over Thompson's Partan.
Cutler faced a slightly tougher challenger against Poudre's Simons later that afternoon, but still managed to get the win.
"I played pretty well," Cutler said. "My goal this season is just to keep getting better."
Culter's only loss came in the Aug. 19 opener against defending state champion Kent Denver. Cutler and the Sailors suffered a heartbreaking 4-3 loss to the defending state champion.
But on Saturday, Steamboat picked up a 4-3 win over Thompson Valley. The team then repeated the feat a few hours later with a 4-3 win over Poudre.
Steamboat's No. 1 player, Rich Tifft, also posted two wins in the matches to improve his record to 3-0 this season. He knocked off Thompson Valley's Jeff White in a 6-2, 6-1 opening match. He returned to the court and polished off Poudre's Justin Kachdoorian in a 6-0, 6-0 match to wrap up a solid afternoon.
"I started pretty slow," Tifft said. "But that's normal. I always have a few nerves when I first start playing."
If the Sailors' top player was anxious, it was hard to see on the green clay of the Steamboat Tennis Center. White put up a good fight, catching Tifft off guard with a few lobs. But for the most part, Tifft had no problem winning the match.
Afterwards Tifft explained that a pulled groin may have played a role in his problems getting back for the lobs.
"I've been battling a few injuries, so I'm looking forward to getting back to 100 percent soon," Tifft said.
The pain may have been diminished on Saturday night after his team won two straight matches. Tifft was disappointed last week when he felt the Sailors could have beaten Kent Denver in the close match.
"This is a very good team," Tifft said. "I think we can go a long way this season and I think we can beat some of these other teams."
The Sailors won the matches despite the absence of the squad's No. 2 singles player, John Aragon Jr., who was out for personal reasons.
Junior varsity player Bret Langstaff stepped into a tough spot and put up a fight against two older players. He lost to Thompson Valley's Brad Changstrom 6-0, 6-1 and then fell to Poudre's Trent Updegraff in straight sets.
Steamboat's No. 1 doubles team of Walker Pruett and David Upbin defeated Thompson Valley in three sets and Poudre in two. The Sailors No. 2 team of Jeff Aragon and Matt Mooney also chalked up wins against both Thompson Valley and Poudre.
To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org