Steamboat Springs When the members of the Steamboat Springs High School tennis team arrive in Pueblo on Thursday, coach John Aragon hopes the challenges faced by the team this season will be behind it.
"That's what we are hoping for," Aragon said. "I think the focus and commitment these guys have shown in their last few practices shows we are ready to go."
During the season, the Sailors have had to deal with the death of classmate and team manager Adele Dombrowski. The team also had to deal with the challenge of not being able to train on the indoor courts at the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs while the facility was being renovated, and they faced a relentless schedule that included top teams such as Greeley West, Grand Junction and Boulder.
But none of that seemed to slow the squad. All 11 players qualified for the state tournament while claiming the team's eighth straight regional title last week in Montrose.
"We have tremendous depth all the way to No. 4 doubles," Aragon said. "We have seven spots all capable of winning a medal at the state tournament."
The team will have a chance to prove their coach correct when they take the courts at Pueblo City Park on Thursday morning.
Walker Loetscher (11-7), a student at Battle Mountain High School who competes as a Sailor, will face a familiar foe at the No. 1 singles position. He will take on Alexander Dawson senior Erik Lillydahl in the opening match. Lillydahl also is from the Vail area but commutes to play for Alexander Dawson.
"Walker knows him pretty well," Aragon said. "But with both players coming from Vail, it should be a pretty good match."
Ramsey Bernard (16-4), who won a state title at No. 3 singles last year, will open this year's tournament with hopes of repeating the feat in the No. 2 bracket.
The Lowell Whitman School student will open against Pueblo South senior Mike Mauro.
Ryan McNamara (16-4), who attends Vail Mountain School but plays for the Sailors, will represent Steamboat in the No. 3 position. He will open this year's tournament against Widefield junior Robert Williams.
Taylor Reed, who lives in Craig, will team up with Steamboat's Nick Ludolph at No. 1 doubles. That team (13-4) will take on Greeley Central's Charlie Haskins and Drew Will--eke in the opening match.
At No. 2, Steamboat's Brian Aragon and Jon Reese (15-5) will face off against Golden's Danny Karras and Kevyn Lol--lar. At No. 3, it will be Dylan Roberts and Jesse Schaller, both of whom placed at last year's tournament, taking on Fountain Valley's Aaron Mendoza and Nick Reiss.
Steamboat's Scott Peterson will make his first state appearance when he teams up with senior Brian Behrman, who commutes from Craig to play with the Sailors, at No. 4 doubles.
The team is 18-2 overall this season and 10-0 in dual matches.
"We are going to have to have every individual on this team play their best tennis," Aragon said. "But if these players give it 100 percent, I think we have a pretty good chance of placing at state."