Sailors post best regional finish ever

Griffing packs bags for state tournament

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— For the second year in a row, the Steamboat Springs High School tennis team will send a representative to the state tournament in Pueblo.

The Sailors' No. 3 player Allison Griffing will get a shot at the title this weekend after placing second at the regional tournament in Grand Junction May 5-6.

"I'm, very excited," the Sailors freshman player said of making the trip to state. "It was pretty unexpected ... I wasn't sure I could do it this year."

Griffing was the top-seeded player in the No. 3 position at last Saturday's state qualifier in Grand Junction with a 6-2 record in tournament play and a 6-0 mark in dual matches. She defeated Roaring Fork's Carrie Jo Riordan in the quarterfinal and then moved past Glenwood Springs' Chelsea Pierre in the semi final.

"I knew the match against the Glenwood girl was pretty important," Griffing said. "If I won that match I knew I was going to state."

The Steamboat player ran into the No. 2 seeded player Holly Kent of Montrose in the finals of the regional. Kent handed Griffing a 6-4, 6-2 loss in the championship match.

But the second-place finish will get Griffing to state and keep the Sailors' two-year qualifying streak alive. Last year, Steamboat's No. 3 doubles team of Tiffany and Lauren Ramsey advanced to the state meet becoming the first members of the Steamboat girls team to accomplish the feat ever.

"We did better as a team at the regional meet this year," Brane said. "I'm really proud of the way all of our players performed."

The Sailors No. 4 double's team of Kristen Bender and Sarah Davey also placed second at the regional meet and earned a state berth.

Bender, however, has elected to take college advance placement tests instead of playing in the state championship matches.

"It's the hardest decision she has ever had to make," Brane said. "But school is more important to her and I think it is the right choice for her."

This is the only time the advanced placement tests are offered and it is unfortunate timing. But the coach and players agreed that college is far more important in the long run and the team will default, allowing the third-place squad from Grand Junction Central (Andrea Valdaz and Diane Wyatt) to advance to the state meet.

Other Sailors coming close to making it to state included the Sailors' No. 2 singles player Kandra Sharp. She placed third in the regional brackets. Kim Heckbert and Tiffany McGinn placed fourth in the No. 1 doubles and Ali Fisher and Tara Weiss placed third. Only the top two seeds advance from regional to state.

The Sailors' No. 1 player Meagan Franks was fifth and the Sailors No. 2 doubles team of Tori Austin and Laura Varsafsky were fourth in the final regional results.

"This was the best finish yet for a Sailors tennis team," Brane said. "We anticipate a strong showing again next year with 10 varsity and five junior varsity players returning next year."

The only senior player the Sailors will lose by graduation this year is Bender.

The state tournament will begin Thursday in Pueblo and continue throughout the weekend.

Griffing will face a familiar foe Mullen's Andrea Ackerman in the first round. Griffing beat Ackerman in a match earlier this year, but isn't taking anything lightly this week.

"This is the state tournament, so I'm sure it's going to be a lot more intense," Griffing said. "I'm going to have to play my best if I want to win."

To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209 or e-mail jrussell@amigo.net.

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