Sailors tennis wins regional tournament

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— Rumors had started circulating before the regional tennis tournament had even started.

Aspen - who had battled Steamboat Springs High School to a 4-3 loss just weeks before - had already made T-shirts saying 'Steamboat Stops Here.'

And with a slim 52-48 Steamboat lead heading into the final day of the tournament, the four Steamboat-Aspen finals matches would determine the regional champion.

Fortunately for the Sailors, the only new shirt needed was the one with the number 10 on it.

As in, Steamboat's 10th consecutive regional championship.

After No. 1 singles player Ramsey Bernard and No. 3 singles player Jeff Lambart breezed through matches against Aspen players, it came down to either Steamboat's third or fourth doubles team beating Aspen to wrap up the win.

Steamboat's No. 4 doubles team - Mirko Esparmer and Vladen Chase - won in two sets, sealing the Sailors victory. The No. 3 team of Ben Paley and Zac Valicenti won in three sets, making it a laugher in Steamboat's favor.

"It really was nerve-wracking," Steamboat coach John Aragon said. "I'm not sure what it is about that 10. Some of these younger kids stepped up. It was how they started bonding and joined together. That's really rewarding as coaches, to see young kids band together and step up."

Friday was an all-around good day for Steamboat tennis.

Along with the 10th consecutive regional title, Steamboat qualified two of its singles players and all of its doubles teams for the state tournament.

Senior Matt Gadbois was the lone senior not to qualify for the state tournament, but it wasn't for a lack of effort.

After Gadbois won his third place match in the morning, he found himself in a playback match for the chance to advance to state.

Gadbois dropped the first set, 6-4, and sent the second set into a tiebreaker.

After it was tied at 5, Gadbois couldn't muster up the last two points, dropping a heartbreaker.

"I was proud of him as anyone on this team," Aragon said. "He left his heart out there."

All of the victorious Steamboat teams won in two sets, except for Paley and Valicenti and the No. 1 doubles team of Alex Gibbs and Charlie Smith.

"It's only, like, the fourth time we've played together," Valicenti said. "You just got to think about the positive things and about the next point. This feels great."

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