Steamboat Springs For the fifth straight year, the Steamboat Springs boys tennis team is the Region 8 Champion.
For the second straight season, all 11 Sailors qualified for state with an impressive run through the regional brackets in Delta this weekend.
"These kids worked hard this year," coach John Aragon said. "This was a goal of our ours. It was real important to the team and the coaches."
Not only is Steamboat sending its entire varsity team, it is sending five champions. All three singles players swept through their matches, while the No. 2, 3 and 4 doubles teams posted similar results.
The No. 1 doubles team of Ryan Zeeb and Matt Ramsey took second after falling to Aspen early but fighting off elimination with three straight wins.
The first- and second-place finishers qualified for the state tournament in Pueblo Oct. 10-12.
No. 1 singles player Jonathan Solomon beat Cedaredge's Joel Anderson, 6-2, 6-1 in the final to advance. Only once in his three matches did he allow his opponent to win more than three games in a single set.
"I thought I was on the harder end of the draw for sure," Solomon said. "(After the first match) things seemed to go pretty well."
No. 2 singles player Patrick Ayers and Cortez's Jeff Anderson both play basketball. Anderson was a member of the state championship team. Anderson is headed to state in tennis as well, but Ayers is going as the champion, winning 0-6, 6-2, 6-2.
"In the first set he didn't miss anything," Ayers said. "In the second two he weakened and started making errors and wasn't hitting his shots."
Aragon said Ayers showed a tenacity and fire he hadn't seen. In fact, Aragon noted the entire Steamboat team showed an aggressiveness and demeanor lacking in previous matches. It couldn't have come at a better time.
No. 3 singles player Andrew Krueger dispatched of his two opponents with relative ease after receiving a first-round bye. He beat Aspen's Cotton Koehler 7-6 (6), 6-0 in the final.
The No. 2 doubles team of Danny Weiss and Chris Timmerman beat teams from Montrose and Aspen to advance. In the finals, after winning a close 7-5 set over Nick Redmond and Justin Whitney, Weiss and Timmerman breezed to a 6-2 second-set victory.
The Sailors' No. 3 doubles team of Brett Langstaff and Pete Zimmer were not the top seeds but came out victorious, defeating the No. 1 seeded team from Hotchkiss, Grady Didericksen and Kyle Chinn, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.
Alex Griffing and Ben Robbins overcame a first-set loss in their opening match to win the next two at love. In the final, the No. 4 Steamboat team defeated Aspen's Jesse Amory and Alex Wells, 6-2, 6-4.
The most drama on Saturday afternoon came from Steamboat's No. 1 doubles team. Heading into regionals, Aragon said Zeeb and Ramsey were playing some of the best tennis on the team. Zeeb did say, however, that he expected Aspen's team of Jeff Erwin and Will Otte to be tough.
Erwin and Otte got the best of Zeeb and Ramsey in three sets, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1.
The Sailors pair, however, wasn't eliminated yet. With wins over teams from Hotchkiss and Delta, Zeeb and Ramsey earned the right to playback for second against Noah Rauscher and James Lujan from Cortez. Steamboat won in less-than-dramatic fashion, 6-0, 6-1.
Steamboat won the team title easily with 78 points. Hotchkiss came in a distant second with 43. Aspen followed with 31, rounding out the top three.
"We definitely thought we could win the region," Ayers said. "We pretty much knew we could win. I figured we would do really well."
Aragon said the team will leave Wednesday for Pueblo with state matches opening on Thursday. In previous years, Aragon said Region 8, and Steamboat in particular, has fared well at the state meet but he noted the level of play at the state level is down as a whole, leaving room for upsets.