Steamboat Springs tennis coach John Aragon knew going into the final day of state high school tennis championships that if the Sailors were going to take second, his players needed to win several key matches.
But when the final round was over, it was the players from Kent Denver who earned those points and the trophy for second place. Steamboat got a lift from No. 2 singles player Ramsey Bernard and the No. 3 doubles team of Dylan Roberts and Jesse Schaller, but it wasn't enough. Steamboat finished in fourth with 38 points, just four points behind third-place finisher Mullen (42) and six behind second-place Kent Denver (44) in the final standings. Cheyenne Mountain, which had clinched the team title before Saturday's round, added to its total by winning six of seven state championship matches to finish with 88 total points.
"It was a tough day," Aragon said after the matches. "Our kids played hard, but it came down to a couple of matches that just didn't go our way. That's tennis."
Two of those matches, at No.1 and No. 4 doubles, were against Kent Denver and could have swung the advantage in Steamboat's favor.
Steamboat's No. 1 doubles team of Taylor Reed and Nick Ludoph fell to Kent Denver's Brad Morse and Moses Taylor, 7-5, 6-4. At No. 4 doubles, Steamboat's Scott Peterson and Brian Behrman lost a heart-breaking 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 match to Kent Denver's Chase Procknow and Marshall Hickey. Those two matches provided an eight-point swing that could have moved Steamboat into a tie with Mullen for second.
"Those were both close matches that could have gone either way," Aragon said. "Sometimes you win those, but this wasn't our day."
Steamboat also had a chance to pick up points at No. 3 singles, where underdog Ryan McNamara gave Cheyenne Mountain senior Cody Gordon a run for his money early in the championship match.
McNamara, who travels from Vail to play with the Sailors, upset Gordon in the first set, 6-4.
"I felt really great in that first set," McNamara said. "I knew it was going to be a hard match, but I really wanted to win."
But the Cheyenne Mountain senior rallied in the second set, winning 6-2, and set the tone for the final set.
"I fell apart in the third set," McNamara said "I let him back in the second, and I lost the momentum in the match."
After the match, McNamara said he let some poor shots on his part and a couple of questionable line calls get into his head down the stretch, allowing the Cheyenne Mountain player to take control. It was Gordon's second state title. He also won last year at No. 1 doubles with partner Alex Brooke.
Although the losses proved to be the difference in Saturday's team race, the Sailors found a couple of bright spots.
Bernard defeated hometown favorite Royce Cappis of Pueblo East, 6-3, 6-4, to add a third-place medal to his list of state accomplishments. Last year, as a freshman, Bernard won the state title at No. 3 singles.
"I played decent enough to get the job done," Bernard said after his match. "I've played him before, so I knew he was a good player. I just tried to stay consistent and play my game, and it worked."
It was a nice finish for Ber-nard, who fell into a tough draw and ended up facing eventual state champion Dan Colten on Friday in what easily could have been the state championship match.
Colten, a senior, made quick work of Kent Denver's Graham Ely in the finals Saturday, wining his first state title.
"It's hard, but I don't have any control over the draw," Bernard said. "It's just bad luck that I had to play (Colten) in the semifinals."
Steamboat also picked up points at the No. 3 doubles position thanks to a late rally by Roberts and Schaller.
The Steamboat team was down, 4-2, in the second set, before rallying to win 10 of the last 11 games in their match against Niwot's Eric Babuska and Josh Baer to place third, as well.
"I don't think that either one of us wanted our season to end like that," Schaller said. "Once we won a few points we got on a roll, and I think we realized that we could beat them."
The final score was 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.
The team will need to replace seniors Walker Loetscher, Peterson, Behrman, Ludolph, Reed and Jon Reese (No. 2 doubles). Senior Brandon Shenfield also played on the No. 2 varsity team for Steamboat.
-- To reach John F. Russell, call 871-4209 or e-mail email@example.com.