The Steamboat Springs boys tennis team seeks its sixth straight regional championship as regional matches begin Friday in Delta.
The two-day tournament will determine the participants in the 2003 State Tennis Tournament in Pueblo, and the Sailors have a rich tradition of sending nearly every member -- if not the entire team -- to state.
Steamboat's Region 8 consists of teams from Aspen, Cedaredge, Hotchkiss, Montrose and Montezuma-Cortez. Steamboat has previously faced Aspen, Cedaredge and Hotchkiss and defeated all three easily this season.
Steamboat did not drop a match to Cedaredge or Hotchkiss. Jonathan Solomon, the Sailors' No. 1 singles player, was the only Steamboat member to lose against Aspen, falling to Lasse Siedenburg.
For a team with just one senior playing varsity tennis, the Sailors have put together a solid season heading into regionals. Steamboat scheduled tough throughout the season in an effort to expose its players to a higher level of tennis with the quality of the field at the state tournament in mind.
"I think this team is ready for regionals," senior Alex Griffing said. "Hopefully it will go well."
At regionals, the top two individuals and top two doubles teams advance to the state tournament held Oct. 9-11 in Pueblo. The Sailors have sent all 11 players to the state tournament for two straight seasons.
The regional bracket is double elimination for singles and doubles play with the possibility of playbacks if the No. 2 and No. 3 finishers in each bracket did not play each other earlier in the tournament.
Steamboat coach John Aragon said all 11 of his players have a shot at making the state tournament even though not all 11 of his original varsity players will be playing in Delta.
Freshman Brian Aragon broke his arm in a non-tennis related accident earlier this week, so sophomore Brandon Shenfield will pair with freshman Jesse Speare-Schaller in the No. 3 doubles slot for the Sailors.
Speare-Schaller and Aragon had a 10-5 overall match record heading into regionals.
John Aragon said Shenfield has steadily improved all season at the JV level. This weekend will be Shenfield's first exposure to varsity tennis for Steamboat, but he has played against varsity players in previous competitions.
"You just have to be calm about it," Shenfield said. "It's really exciting, but it's not like varsity is new to me."
Four of Steamboat's varsity members have regional and state tournament experience: Solomon, No. 2 singles Patrick Ayres, Griffing at No. 1 doubles, though he played No. 4 doubles last season, and Danny Weiss at No. 2 doubles.
Solomon has a return trip to state on his mind this weekend and is aware that he likely will have a rematch with Siedenburg of Aspen.
Solomon said he just has to play his own match against Siedenburg.
The Sailors are seeking their sixth straight regional championship, and this year's team doesn't want to be the one to end the streak. Even though seven of this year's varsity players will play their first regional tournament this weekend, Aragon said they are aware of the reputation Steamboat has within the region.
"The older kids talk to the younger players about the streak, and that's incentive for them to do well," Aragon said.