The last time Lisa Floyd advanced to the semifinals of the state high school tennis championships, she was a wide-eyed freshman getting her first taste of the state finals.
But that was a year ago, and on Thursday, Floyd sent a message to the other players in the No. 2 singles bracket that she is looking for more -- a lot more.
"It feels great. I can't wait to play," Floyd said. "This year, I don't want to play for third and fourth place -- I want to play for the title."
On Thursday, she cruised through the preliminary round, defeating Pueblo East's Alexis Alvarez in two sets, 6-2 and 6-3. The Steamboat Springs sophomore also looked sharp in the first set of the quarterfinals, handling Niwot sophomore Claire Runge, 6-3. But Runge frustrated Floyd in the second set with well-placed lobs and a hard-driving shots.
"She put on a fight in the second set, and I didn't expect it at all. I thought I was just going to cruise on through," Floyd said. "She's a great player."
Floyd fell behind Runge, 4-1, in the second, but a couple of hard shots helped Floyd regain her composure and pull out the victory.
"I lost my intensity," Floyd said. "I was frustrated, but I pulled it back together. When I won two games in a row, then I knew I was going to take the match."
Floyd was one of five Steamboat players to win all their matches Thursday and earn the right to play in today's semifinal matches.
The No. 1 doubles team of Molly Weiss and Kristin Toy advanced at No.1 doubles.
The Steamboat duo used gritty play to top Pueblo South's Emily Bellah and Megan Greg--orich, as well as Eaton's Nicole Ballard and Amanda Lesh.
Against Pueblo South, Steamboat escaped the first set with a 7-5 win, and then put the hammer down in the second set, winning 6-1. The quarterfinals also turned out to be a gut check for the Steamboat team.
The Sailors won the first set, 7-5, but Eaton rebounded by winning the second set, 6-4. The match came down to the final set, in which Weiss and Toy prevailed with a 6-2 win.
"We battled really hard," Weiss said. "We won the points that we needed to get the games in the final set."
Last season, Weiss and Toy were state qualifiers, but they played with different partners. Their teams failed to advance past the quarterfinals. This year, the two have teamed up for their first semifinal appearance against Mullen, a team they beat earlier in the year.
"I'm really excited, and it's better because we are playing a team that we've already met," Toy said. "We can definitely turn it up if we play our game. I think it will be a tight match, and hopefully, we will come out on top."
Steamboat's No. 4 doubles team of Tara King and Heidi Hillenbrand also will be hoping to come out on top of their semifinal match against Mullen's Kelly Sweeney and Kelly Nightingale today.
The Steamboat players won a heart-stopping opening round match against Fossil Ridge's Mindy Nguyen and Diane Vo-Ba, 6-3, 3-6 and 7-6 (1).
"It was kind of backwards today. We had the hard match first and then the easy match," King said. "We came back from being down pretty low. It was a good comeback, both mentally and point-wise."
Win or lose, King said she's excited to play in the semifinals against a team such as Mullen.
"I would love to win it, but I'm just excited to play Mullen," King said. " They are really good, and it should be good tennis. We haven't faced that many really good teams this season."
Mullen players proved just how good they are Thursday by taking a share of the team lead in the state championships. Mullen and Cheyenne Mountain are at the top of the leader board with 13 points. Kent Denver is third with 10. Steamboat is in fourth with 9 points, and Pine Creek has 8 in fifth place.
Steamboat's No. 1 singles player, Breanne Murray, and No. 3 singles player, Shelby Reed, both lost second-round matches. Steamboat's No. 2 doubles team of Anya Salzgeber and Rebecca Timmerman also lost in the second round.
If the players and teams that beat them advance to the finals, those players could be pulled back into the tournament and have a chance to play in today's playbacks. The semifinals will take place this morning.