5 Sailors move on to semis

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Steamboat tennis coach John Aragon was fairly confident that his No. 3 doubles team would do well Thursday in the Class 4A state tennis tournament at Pueblo City Park.

A little threat never hurts, though.

"He told us we had a good draw and if we didn't do something with it, he'd hold us down and cut our hair," Nick Ludolph said.

Ludolph and his partner, Jesse Schaller, are called the "hippies on the hill" by their coach because both have long, curly hair down to their shoulders -- Schaller had a "trim" in June, while it's been almost a year since Ludolph's last haircut -- so the threat wasn't taken lightly.

"I don't want to cut my hair," Ludolph said.

The hair is safe, and so are the Sailors.

Ludolph and Schaller reached the semifinals with a pair of victories Thursday, joining three teammates who also have a chance to win state titles. Ramsey Bernard reached the semifinals at No. 3 singles, and Brian Behrman and Dylan Roberts at No. 4 doubles.

"I'm a little disappointed we didn't have more in the semifinals," said Aragon, whose team sent all 11 players to state. "I'm glad we have (players in three spots), but I expected at least four, and possibly five."

Ludolph and Schaller did their part. After taking out Mesa Ridge's Jessey Kennell and Jordan Zander in the first round, 6-2, 6-3, they outlasted Greeley West's Jason Shelton and Nik Lehnert, 6-4, 6-3, in the quarterfinals.

"I thought we played very well," Schaller said. "We were very aggressive at the net."

Behrman and Roberts were dominant in their first two matches. They took out Greeley Central, 6-2, 6-2, in the first round, and then rolled past Pueblo South, 6-1, 6-0, in the quarterfinals.

Perhaps more impressive was Bernard. The freshman lost just four games in two matches, both against seniors. Bernard defeated Pueblo Central's Jay Yazdgerdi, 6-1, 6-1, and Thompson Valley's Jesse Munson, 6-0, 6-2.

"I was really intense and didn't let down at all," Bernard said. "I played the same as I would in a final."

If he keeps playing like this, he'll be in the finals Saturday. He certainly looked capable Thursday of earning a state title.

"I was confident coming into it," he said. "If I'm at the top of my game, I can beat anyone here."

Bernard said he was more aggressive than usual, but he felt he had to be in order to challenge himself more and keep himself motivated.

"I would not have done as well if I wasn't as aggressive," he said.

The Sailors concluded Thursday's action tied for third place in the team standings. Defending champion Kent Denver led the race with 12 points, followed by Cheyenne Mountain with 10 and Broomfield and Steamboat Springs, tied with nine each.

To stay near the top, however, the Sailors need some help.

No. 2 singles player Taylor Reed won his first-round match but lost to Kent Denver's Graham Ely in the second round. Now, he needs Ely to win his semifinal match this morning, giving Reed an opportunity to play in playbacks.

Steamboat Springs' No. 1 and No. 2 doubles teams are in the same situation.

Patrick Ayres and Jonathan Solomon lost their quarterfinal match to Cheyenne Mountain at No. 1 doubles, while Brian Aragon and Jon Reese lost their quarterfinal to Broomfield at No. 2 doubles. Both teams could pick up points in playbacks.

As a team, the Sailors went 6-1 in the first round, their only loss coming at No. 1 singles. Walker Loetscher lost to Evergreen's Pat Riley in the first round and then missed a chance at playbacks when Riley lost in the next round.

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