Coaches serve up winning tennis season

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— A couple of old-school tennis pros and a young prote have the Sailors tennis team headed in the right direction.

The Sailor girls, who are led by coaches Emily Harris, Carol Baily and Beccy Brane, are gearing up for regionals May 4 and 5 in Grand Junction.

"They're three amazing people and they help us with our tennis immensely," said No. 3 singles player Kim Heckbert.

"We are extremely lucky to have them. It gives us a lot more confidence with our playing abilities as we go into regionals."

Steamboat, 7-3 in dual play, won three of its first five matches this season by shutout.

Baily, who played for Arizona State University for three years, turned professional in 1973.

About four years into her career, she had tennis legend Billie Jean King on the ropes during a tournament in San Antonio, Texas.

Baily jumped out to a 3-0 lead in each of the first two sets but King battled back to grab a 6-4, 6-4 victory.

In 1973, King defeated Bobby Riggs in a notorious "battle of the sexes" match.

"She was my idol growing up," said Baily, who was inducted into the Colorado Tennis Hall of Fame earlier this year.

In Baily's final professional season in 1981, she was ranked No. 51 in the world.

Meagan Franks, Sailors No. 2 singles player, first came under Baily's wing while in middle school.

"She has always helped me," Franks said. "I think she's a really good coach and part of that is because she was a good player."

Brane first picked up a racket at age 25 in her home state of Florida.

"Within a couple of years, I was competing, teaching and then a head pro of a facility," Brane said. "I was like a sponge. I absorbed every possible bit of information that I could."

From 1983 to 1985, Brane was Florida's No. 1 ranked singles player in the women's 25-and-older division.

A year later, she was No. 1 in the state in women's 35 singles and No. 2 in women's 35 doubles.

She was a tennis instructor throughout her playing career and was head pro at the East Bay Tennis Club in Largo, Fla.

Injuries forced her out of the sport early, though Brane now wants to get back into it, she said.

Harris, who grew up in Johnson City, Tenn., started taking tennis lessons at age 5.

As a youth, she competed in a number of local tournaments and also played on a traveling team while in high school.

She attended the University of Alabama after high school and graduated with a degree in sports fitness management in 1993.

Harris moved to Steamboat Springs shortly after college and began coaching alongside Brane and Baily three years ago.

All three coaches are certified instructors by the United States Professional Tennis Association.

No. 1 doubles player Ali Fisher credits her coaches with her success on the court.

"The coaches have helped me a lot this year with my serve and that's really been a big advantage for me," said Fisher, who teams up in the No. 1 doubles slot with Kandra Sharp.

Harris says the Steamboat players have been excellent to work with.

"Hopefully, I can be a positive influence on their lives," she said.

The Sailors were defeated 6-1 by the 5A Thompson Valley Eagles Saturday. Franks was the lone Steamboat winner, topping Kayli Changstrom in the No. 2 singles bout in three sets.

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