Steamboat Springs Ryan Zeeb and Matt Ramsey looked more like a seasoned pair than a recently formed duo with a season-opening 6-2, 6-4 victory over Niwot's No. 1 doubles team of Jason Babuska and Luke Shefield Tuesday afternoon at The Tennis Center.
Zeeb, a new addition to the 2002 Steamboat Springs boys' tennis team following a move from South Dakota, was paired with Ramsey, a fellow senior, last Wednesday.
With less than one week of practice on their side, Zeeb and Ramsey combined dominating serves with tough net play to handily defeat the Niwot doubles team Tuesday.
"Matt set it up with good shots and Ryan closed it out," coach John Aragon said. "That's the best I've seen them play together."
Both have doubles experience, which helps in learning each other's tendencies, but Tuesday's effort looked as if one week was all that was necessary to become a strong duo.
"I know what his strengths and weaknesses are," Zeeb said.
"Ditto," Ramsey replied.
He said Zeeb's strength was his spin touch shot. Zeeb felt Ramsey's serve was his best shot. Both are essential in winning doubles matches.
Serving is one area of the game where sophomore Jonathan Solomon feels he needs improvement.
As a member of the Sailors' No. 4 doubles team last season, Solomon made dramatic strides to become Steamboat's top overall player this year.
A summer spent in a Florida tennis camp helped Solomon improve every facet of his game, but Niwot senior Sam Schabacker proved to be too tough an opponent for Solomon, as the Steamboat sophomore went down 6-3, 6-3.
Solomon looked more comfortable on the run Tuesday. Inconsistent first serves and baseline returns cost Solomon critical points, but overall the sophomore was pleased with his debut as a singles player.
"It's a good start to the season," he said. "I'm looking forward to playing."
One noticeable difference between Solomon, Zeeb and Ramsey compared to their Niwot counterparts, was their ability to remain on an even keel emotionally. Rarely did frustration show, and if it did, it came in nothing but a yell at oneself.
Outward frustration cost Niwot's Babuska and Shefield a point. Schabaker's disappointment cost him numerous unforced errors.
"I was pleased overall with the point play," Aragon said. "Now we need to learn how to capitalize and finish off when we have the lead."
Unfortunately, not many Steamboat players had the lead at home on Tuesday.
Niwot, the fourth-place finisher in Class 4A last season, didn't allow their host to establish any home-court advantage. Zeeb and Ramsey were the only Sailors to record a victory, as Niwot went on for a 6-1 team win.
No. 2 singles player Patrick Ayers fell to Niwot's Joe Hake, 7-5, 6-4. Andrew Krueger, Steamboat's No. 3 singles player, was on the short end of a 6-4, 6-2 match with Bill Chren.
On the doubles side, Danny Weiss and Chris Timmerman lost 6-4, 7-5. Brett Langstaff and Alex Griffing went down 0-6, 2-6, while the freshmen pair of David Compton and Ben Robbins couldn't compete with Niwot's Justin Higley and Ben Wright, losing 6-1, 6-2.
"We're real young," Aragon said. "I feel if we can come out to practice with some purpose and stay focused we can make gains through the end of the season."
The competition doesn't get any easier for Steamboat.
Saturday, the Sailors will host a tournament at The Tennis Center, marking the final time they are at home for the 2002 season. The matches against Thompson Valley begin at 10 a.m. and the contest against Kent Denver will start around 2 p.m.
Kent Denver tied for first last year in Class 4A at the state tournament.
To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208
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