Steamboat Springs With all of its starting lineup back, the Sailors boys tennis team crushed Hotchkiss and Cedaredge in its home opener Saturday.
The team, now 5-1, began the day with a 7-0 win over Hotchkiss and continued its winning streak with a 7-0 win over Cedaredge.
"Even though it wasn't the top level of competition, our kids played well. They controlled the match. They looked solid as a group of 11 players," Sailors coach John Aragon said.
Saturday's matches were the first time that the injury-plagued Sailors had their full starting power. Making his debut was No. 2 singles player Joe Cutler, who started the season off with two wins.
With a preseason stomach muscle tear, Cutler had been out for the season's first four matches. Serving at just three-quarters of his strength, Cutler said he held back some of his offensive power Saturday.
But, after his two week hiatus, Cutler was ready to play as he defeated the Bulldogs' Joey Stech (6-1, 6-1) and the Bruins' Joel Anderson (6-0, 6-2).
"It feels great," Cutler said. "I felt like an idiot sitting on the sidelines, just sitting there watching."
Though Cutler said his serving still needs to improve, he was happy with his net play.
"I am getting to the net well," Cutler said. "Last year, I had trouble getting to the net. I stayed back more."
Five of the Sailors remained undefeated throughout Saturday's play to improve their individual records to 6-0.
No. 1 singles player Rich Tifft led the team with wins over Hotchkiss' Ricky Sparks (6-0, 6-0) and Cedaredge's Nate Bullis (6-0, 6-0).
Recovering from a shoulder surgery in May, Tifft tested out his overhand serve for the first time on Saturday.
"It feels pretty good (serving)," Tifft said "It's my biggest weapon, I definitely like using it."
With the Sailors' top two singles players serving, the team is back on track to regaining its three-time regional title.
"It was good just to get all the guys together and get a match in," Aragon said. "If we stay healthy we can make some big games before regional."
The undefeated No. 1 doubles duo of Dave Upbin and Jeff Aragon also had strong matches beating the Hotchkiss team of Cory Myrtle and Eloy Cells and the Cedaredge team of Grant McFarland and Don Loucks in two games of 6-0.
"It was the best we've played this year," Upbin said. "We'll do all right this year."
Upbin said he is looking to return to the state tournament where he and Walker Pruett took third in the No. 1 doubles competition last year.
The No. 4 doubles team of Patrick Ayers and Jonathan Soloman also improved their record to 6-0 by taking on the Bulldogs' Grady Diderickson and Kyle Chinn (6-0, 6-2) and Bruins' Evan Davis and Nathanial Dave (6-1, 6-0).
The Sailors will look to continue their winning streak at the Grand Junction Tournament starting Friday. The tournament hosts top 5A schools like the traditional tennis powerhouses of Cherry Creek and Fruita.