Steamboat Springs After the first day of state play, the Steamboat Springs tennis team is heading into today's tournament in third place, just two points away from leader Cheyenne Mountain.
With two singles players and three doubles teams undefeated in the first and second rounds, the Sailors are in prime position as they enter the semifinals today.
The highest the Sailors tennis team has ever placed in the state tournament under coach John Aragon is third, which the team captured four years ago. After Thursday's play, Steamboat stands at third with 11 points, Cheyenne Mountain leads with 13 and Kent Denver is in second at 12.
"There's two days left. If we put five people into the next round, they could bid for that title," Sailors coach John Aragon said. "There's some key head-to-heads."
For No. 1 singles player Rich Tifft, the tournament's most anticipated match comes in today's semifinal round when he faces top-ranked Chris Wetzig of Cheyenne Mountain.
The No. 2 singles champion from last year's tournament, Wetzig blew by Mullen's Matt Phillip 6-2, 6-1 in the quarterfinals. Phillip was also highly ranked coming into the state tournament.
Tifft remains undefeated as he breezed through the first- and second-round matches and downed Austin Nunn from Colorado Academy 6-0, 6-1 and then Niwot's Paul Beaton 6-1, 6-2.
Also continuing on to the semifinal round will be No. 3 singles player Carter Allen, who beat Vince Lopez of Pueblo East 6-1, 6-1 and Neil Patel of Fountain Valley, 6-3, 6-4.
Thursday did not fare quite as well for the Sailors No. 1 doubles team of Jeff Aragon and David Upbin. The team lost in the second round to Kent Denver in a close match of 7-6 (7-5), 6-7 (2-7) ,6-3.
A crucial turning point in the match came in the first set with Steamboat up 5-4. Aragon ran off the court to punch the ball over a Kent Denver player's head to end a volley. However, the Kent Denver player took off in a full sprint, reached the ball and swung the racket between his legs to send the ball back over the net.
That ball flew over Aragon's head and landed on the line to bring Kent Denver even with Steamboat.
"It was probably one of the best high school tennis matches I've seen in years," Coach Aragon said.
Though Jeff Aragon and Upbin will not advance to the semifinals, if Kent Denver advances to the finals, the partners could go to the playback rounds where they have the potential of finishing third.
The rest of the Sailors' doubles teams advance to the semifinals today. The No. 2 doubles team of Danny Martin and Matt Mooney beat Broomfield's Evan Apel and Chris VanFossen 6-1, 6-2 and had a close game with Mullen's Nick Yorchak and Ryan Benson winning in three sets of 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
At the No. 3 doubles slot, Andrew Krueger and Matt Ramsey beat Liberty's Chris Zaremba and Brian Case 6-0, 6-4, and Pueblo South's Zach Prutch and Mike Miranda 6-4, 2-6, 6-0.
The No. 4 doubles team of Patrick Ayers and Jonathan Soloman advanced to the semifinals by beating Michael Underhill and Brian Kolb of Lewis-Palmer 6-0,6-2, and Josh Tofoya and Jacob Guzman of Pueblo South 4-6, 7-5, 6-4.
"I was really proud. Our young men went out and fought and left everything on the court," Coach Aragon said.
No. 2 singles player Joe Cutler was the only Sailor who did not advance to the second round. He dropped his first match 6-3, 6-2 to Evergreen's Tim Wyatt.