Squad nets first tourney

Sailors prove their mettle at Pueblo event

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— The members of the Steamboat Springs High School boys tennis team went to Pueblo last weekend hoping to make a statement.

"We are really strong this year," doubles player Patrick Ayres said. "I think we wanted to show everybody that we belonged at the top."

By Saturday afternoon, that is where most of the Steamboat players found themselves. The Sailors' No. 3 singles player, Ramsey Bernard, and all four of the squad's doubles teams still had a shot at bringing home an individual title.

Ayres and No. 1 doubles partner Jonathan Solomon defeated Air Academy's Curtis Rauch and Mike Tuthill 6-4, 6-4 to bring home the only individual title.

However, second-place finishes by Bernard (5-7,4-6) in singles, Brian Aragon and Jon Reese (4-5, 3-6) in the No. 2 doubles slot, Nick Ludolph and Jesse Schaller (4-6,1-6) at No. 3 doubles, and Dylan Roberts and Brian Behrmann (3-6,3-6) at No. 4 doubles, helped Steamboat capture the team title at the tournament with 123 points.

Air Academy and Grand Junction tied for second with 118 points, and Ponderosa came in fourth with 108 points.

It was the first tournament of the season for Ayres and Solomon. The squad finished second a few weeks ago at the Western Slope Tournament in Grand Junction, but Ayres thought this was a big step for him and his partner, who have both played singles the past two years.

"We played doubles together as freshmen, so it hasn't been a huge adjustment," Ayres said.

He said it has taken a few weeks for the pair to develop the on-court coordination that is required for doubles play.

"It's definitely a different game," Ayres said. "It requires a lot more finesse and less power than singles."

It also requires constant communication between the two players. Ayres said at the start of the season, the duo missed a lot of balls thinking the other player would take it.

But those types of errors are starting to disappear.

"We are looking to win a state title this season," Ayres said. "I know we can do it as a doubles team, and I think the entire team has a pretty good shot."

Coach John Aragon also is feeling confident about the team's chances at the midway point of the 2004 season.

He was happy with all the players who advanced to the finals last weekend and was pleased with the way the rest of the team responded. "I told them after the semis on Saturday morning that if they wanted to make a statement, this was the time to do it," Aragon said. "They came out and got it done."

While nine of the team's players battled for titles in the finals, the other two responded with important fifth-place finishes that helped Steamboat collect key team points.

The Sailors' top singles player, Walker Loetscher, topped Alee Saslow to take fifth in the No. 1 singles slot, and Steamboat's No. 2 player, Taylor Reed, defeated Nick Lockwood to place fifth in the No. 2 singles slot.

It was the Sailors' first tournament win of the season. The team is currently 2-1 in dual play and is scheduled to play matches against Aspen and Evergreen Friday in Aspen.

The team's only home match -- scheduled for tonight against Colorado Academy -- was scratched because of a communication error between the two schools.

The Sailors are scrambling to try to get a home match this season. Steamboat also will host the regional tournament on Oct. 8-9.


--To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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