Steamboat Springs It's not a secret - the Steamboat Springs girls tennis team is the consensus favorite in this year's regional meet.
The Sailors have ripped off two straight regional titles, return five state medalists, are ranked among the top 5 in Class 4A and put together a 9-1 record during the regular season.
Starting Friday at 8:30 a.m. in Grand Junction, Steamboat begins its quest for the state tournament.
"To do well at state, we have to go 11 deep," Steamboat coach John Aragon said, noting the Sailors will face tough competition from Aspen, Vail Mountain, Montrose and Hotchkiss at regionals. "But this weekend our girls can't take anything lightly."
While Steamboat is relatively young - especially in some of the doubles pairings - Aragon said the Sailors should get leadership from their five returning medalists as well as four seniors.
"We just have to be ready mentally," senior and No. 2 singles player Breanne Murray said. "We've worked all year. We've worked hard from the beginning to obtain our goals. It's believing in ourselves more than if our opponent is better or worse."
While the Sailors have seen only a handful of the 12 teams in the region, Aragon said the Sailors can't look past Friday and Saturday to the state meet in Pueblo on May 10 to 12.
Instead, he said, the team has to remain focused on the task at hand.
"Mentally, I really think they're capable of playing at a real high level," Aragon said. "We have to get through regionals before we look at state."
One area of concern for Steamboat remains the lack of competitive play the Sailors have seen. With spring break for Steamboat Springs High School taking place last week, some of the Sailors haven't played competitive tennis in two weeks.
"I think the chemistry is really good," Aragon said. "There are some concerns coming off the break, but (Tuesday) we had a meeting and the girls want to control their own destiny."
Aragon said the team will look to its returning medalists to for leadership.
One player who medaled went through a similar situation last year.
Sophomore Shelby Reed, who attends the Lowell Whiteman School, missed a month before regionals last year because of a school trip. With only two days of practice before the regional meet, Reed went out and lost only three games all tournament.
"They can do it if they try," Reed said. "It gives them confidence that I had only two days to practice and then killed at regionals. We've had a week to practice. We can win regionals. We should win regionals."
The tournament is slated to begin at 8:30 a.m. Friday with championship matches scheduled for Saturday. The matches will be held at Lincoln Park and Canyon View Park in Grand Junction.
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