The Steamboat Springs High School tennis team has been back on the courts for only a week, but from the tone of its practice sessions, it is going to be a very competitive year.
The additions of Battle Mountain junior Walker Luctscher and freshman Ramsey Bernard have shaken up the order and left last year's top singles players fighting for positions.
The players will earn their spots based on the results of challenge matches that will continue through Monday, leading up to the Sailors' season-opening match against Denver East on Tuesday in Denver.
On Thursday, coach John Aragon said it looked as if Luctscher, who travels to Steamboat twice a week because Battle Mountain doesn't offer tennis, will take the No. 1 singles spot. Battle Mountain is in Minturn.
Bernard and Jonathan Solomon, who has a shoulder injury, will fill in the No. 2 and No. 3 slots depending on the outcome of their challenge matches.
"We have tremendous depth on this team," Aragon said. "We are going to be tough from the No.1 singles position all the way down to our No. 4 doubles team."
Aragon said the remaining varsity players, including Patrick Ayres, Taylor Reed, Brian Aragon, Jesse Speare-Schaller, Jon Reese, Brian Behrman, Nick Ludolph, Dylan Roberts, Sean Hays, Zack Epley and Andrew Riley, most likely will make up the Sailors' four doubles teams. However, a few of those players have an opportunity to play singles.
Aragon said he is looking forward to the season and for this team to find out exactly what the future holds.
The Sailors were scheduled to open the season Saturday at home with matches against perennial tennis power Kent Denver, but the defending state champion didn't have the match on its schedule so it was canceled, Aragon said.
In addition to several tough Western Slope matches, Steamboat is gearing up for several larger competitions, including the Western Slope and Pueblo tournaments in September. The squad is scheduled to play in eight dual matches and two tournaments before the regional championships in October. Solomon expects the Sailors to be strong in singles play but thinks the success of the team will be determined by the play of the doubles teams.
"The most important thing is going to be our doubles teams," Solomon said. "Our singles will be good for some points, but it's the doubles teams that will carry us."
Ayres says he doesn't mind moving to doubles and thinks this team can make a run at a state title this October.
"We have a really good shot at bringing home a couple of state medals this year," Ayres said. "This team has definitely grown since I was a freshman."
Luctscher is a welcome addition to the Sailors roster, and Aragon expects the junior player to make an impact from the start.
"The whole team has made me feel welcome from the day I got here," Luctscher said. "I would like to earn a state championship for myself, and I would like to see the whole team win a state title. I know it's a lofty goal, but you have to set high goals if you want to be successful."