After surprising some of the top tennis players on the Western Slope this season en route to a 9-0 dual record, Sailors freshman Kelli Parnell will be hoping to shock a few more this weekend in Pueblo.
"It's all about having fun," the promising young singles player said. "I really wasn't expecting a season like this, but my coaches and teammates have really helped me."
Parnell and teammate Kim Heckbert both qualified to play in this year's Colorado State High School Tennis Championships, which will begin in Pueblo this Thursday.
Parnell, who hasn't lost a dual match all season, won three-straight matches last weekend. She defeated Cedaredge's Tori Everhart in the No.3 singles spot in the final spot at last weekend's regional tournament in Grand Junction in a two-set match (6-1 and 6-0) to earn her first trip to the state tournament. Parnell' s only two loses this season have come in tournament play.
"I'm really excited," Parnell said.
With the pressure of qualifying off, Parnell said she just wants to focus on having more fun this weekend in the biggest event of her high school career the state tournament. It's not surprising that Parnell is happy that Heckbert, who qualified for state last year, will be along for the ride.
"Kim is great," Parnell said. "I'm the young freshman always asking her questions and she is always there with the answers."
Heckbert also advanced to the finals at the regional in the No.2 singles slot.
However, Cedaredge's Brie Holz defeated the Steamboat junior in a hard-fought championship match 7-6 (7-3) 6-1.
Aspen collected the regional team title this year with Steamboat and Cedaredge both tied for second place in the tournament with 45 points each.
The second-place finish was an improvement for the Sailors who finished third last year. The team, however, qualified fewer players for the state championship tournament.
Coach Beccy Brane said she was happy with the finish, especially when you consider that the Sailors were missing their No.2 doubles team that squad defaulted for personal reasons.
"Those were the players that I expected to qualify," Brane said of Parnell and Heckbert. "They've been playing well all season and I felt like they were going to show well at the regional as well."
The only real upset of the weekend for Steamboat was in the No.1 singles spot, where junior Alison Griffing finished in second place, but fell to Autumn Lawyer of Cedaredge in a playback.
The loss cost Griffing a ticket to the state championships.
Steamboat's No.1 doubles team of Tiffany Mcginn and Ali Fisher also made a strong bid, but just missed a state invitation by placing third in the regional tourney.
On Monday, Parnell and Heckbert were back at work. The pair is expected to leave for Southern Colorado on Wednesday night.
State playoff matches will begin early Thursday morning at Pueblo City Park.