The Steamboat Springs No. 4 doubles team of Dylan Roberts and Brian Behrman noticed a few things about their opponents in the playback semifinal at the Class 4A boys state tennis tournament Friday. First was the size of Niwot seniors Dillon Cruden and Justin Higley, who were nearly a foot taller. Next was their power, as they sent balls skyrocketing off the courts at Pueblo City Park.
Finally, Roberts, a 5-foot-6 freshman and Behrman, a 5-foot-5 sophomore, sensed a bit of cockiness. The match began and Roberts and Behrman made up for their lack of size with speed and skill to defeat Cruden and Higley 6-2, 6-4 to advance to today's third-place match against Cheyenne Mountain's Evan Engle and Ethan Taylor.
"After the first set they realized they'd better start playing," Behrman said. "We knew they'd eventually make a mistake."
Which they did, in bunches, after Roberts and Behrman fell behind 4-1 in the second set. "We just had to work as hard as we can to put pressure on them," Roberts said. "They were tough. It was hard to get the ball over them. And they had power -- one ball bounced up like 8 feet."
The match came just 30 minutes after Roberts and Behrman took a grueling 7-6, 2-6, 7-6 win over Pueblo County's Ryan Carlino and Jason Parker. After not scoring a point or winning a first-round match in last season's state meet, Steamboat Springs has five points.
Kent Denver is the leader going into today's finals with 57, followed by Cheyenne Mountain and Ralston Valley, who are tied at 31.
"Our problem is inexperience," said Steamboat Springs coach John Aragon, who has helped guide his team to six straight regional titles. "We need a little more depth and for our top lineup to play year-round tennis."
Also for Steamboat Springs, Jonathon Solomon fell to Pueblo South's Beau Fresquez at No. 1 singles and Alex Griffing and Nick Ludolph lost to Niwot's Brian Brooks and Justin Bolton in the No. 1 doubles, first-round playback.