Experience bolsters tennis veterans' confidence

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It was a lesson that Steamboat Springs High School tennis player Breanne Murray says she will never forget.

After being blown out of the first set of the state semifinals by Eaton's Whitney Cunningham at last year's state tournament, the Sailor came face-to-face with the decision that has come to shape her approach to tennis.

Murray rallied to win the final two sets and earned the right to face Kent Denver's Lauren Miller for the title at No. 2 singles. The Steamboat player didn't win the championship, but she left the tournament the next day with the second-place ribbon and the knowledge that she had reached her potential.

"Never give up," Murray said before practice Monday afternoon. "There are times when you might fall behind, but if you refuse to give up, there is no telling what might happen."

This year, Murray will return to Pueblo's City Park for the state tournament. She hopes for the same success she found in 2005. It will be a tough road to the finals in the No. 1 singles bracket, but Murray isn't about to give up.

"I'm nervous," Murray said. "I've stepped up a level, but I feel like I'm also a better player."

If things go well in the first round, Murray expects to face her first real test in the second round against Mullen's Jodi Ciarvella. Simone Kalhorn of Pine Creek also is on Murray's side of the bracket.

But the Steamboat player will avoid Miller, who won the state title at No. 2 singles last year, and Cheyenne Mountain's Casey Wetzig until the semifinal round. Both of those players are on the upper part of the bracket.

Like her teammate, Lisa Floyd also enjoyed success at last year's state tournament, where she finished fourth as a freshman at No. 3 singles. This year, she stepped up to No. 2 but thinks she is a lot stronger than last season.

"I played a lot last summer, and I know that I've stepped it up this season," Floyd said. 'I've learned not to underestimate myself or this team."

She could face an early test against Mullen's Cari Hudson, a player she beat earlier in the year. Kent Denver's Lindsey Kucera, the player who beat Floyd for third place last season, is on the other side of the bracket.

The Sailors will send seven other players to the championships.

The tournament opens at 9 a.m. Thursday and will continue with semifinal matches and playbacks Friday and finals Saturday.

Murray, Floyd and No. 3 singles player Shelby Reed will represent the Sailors in the singles brackets. In doubles, Steamboat's Molly Weiss and Kristin Toy will take the court at No. 1, Anya Salzgeber and Rebecca Timmerman will play for the title at No. 2, and Tara King and Heidi Hillenbrand will play for the title at No. 4.

"The key for us in all the matches is going to be first round," Coach John Aragon said. "If we lose early, the chances are we will spend the rest of the weekend watching."

The coach is warning his players to take the tournament one match at a time. He said looking past an opponent at this level in typically devastating.

"It's a dogfight to the finals," Aragon said. "All of these players, and all of these teams have earned the right to be there. The competition is tough."

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