Sailors fight for 3rd place

Strong showings help Steamboat at state tourney

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Steamboat Springs' Ramsey Bernard returns a volley during his state semifinal match against Pueblo County's Miles Lucero on Friday morning at Pueblo City Park. Bernard won the match, becoming the first Steamboat player to advance to the finals at No. 1 singles in the history of the program.

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Steamboat Springs Ramsey Bernard races to return a volley during his state semifinal match against Pueblo County's Miles Lucero Friday morning at Pueblo City Park. Bernard won the match becoming the first Steamboat player to advance to the finals at No. 1 singles in the history of the program.

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Steamboat Springs Zac Valicenti returns a hard volley during a playback match against D'Evelyn Frida afternoon at Pueblo City Park. Valicenti, and partner Ben Paley, will face Greeley West in the consolation finals today for third place.

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Steamboat Springs Charlie Smith returns a shot during a playback match against Pueblo West Friday at the 4A state high school tennis championships in Pueblo. The Sailors won the match and will face Montrose today in the consolation finals from third place.

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Ben Paley watches and smiles after winning a point in a No. 3 singles playback match against D'Evelyn Friday at Pueblo City Park. Paley, and partner Zac Valicenti wlll play Greeley West in today's consolation finals for third place.

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Ben Paley returns a shot during a playback match against D'Evelyn on Friday at the state high school tennis championships at Pueblo City Park. Paley and partner Zac Valicenti won two matches Friday, earning the chance to play for third in today's final round.

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Steamboat Springs Alex Gibbs returns a volley at Pueblo City Park Friday as part of the 2007 4A state high school tennis championships. Gibbs, and partner Charlie Smith lost in the semifinals, but battled back in the playbacks. The team will face Montrose in today's consolation finals for third place.

Team standings

Cheyenne Mountain, 70

Kent Denver, 61

Steamboat Springs, 25

Mullen, 20

Greeley West, 13

Broomfield, 12

D'Evelyn, 12

Ralston Valley, 10

Mountain Range, 9

Silver Creek, 9

Montrose, 7

Pueblo County, 4

Pueblo West, 3

Fossil Ridge, 3

Niwot, 2

Greeley Central, 2

Aspen, 1

Rock Canyon, 1

State finals pairings

No. 1 singles - Ramsey Bernard (Steamboat) vs. Justin Hermes (Cheyenne Mountain)

No. 1 singles consolation - Andrew Flora (Mountain Range) vs. J.J. Shpall (Kent Denver)

No. 2 singles - Stan Vaughan (Mullen) vs. Brad Young (Cheyenne Mountain)

No. 2 singles consolation - Jack Reynolds (Kent Denver) vs. Bernie Bergman (D'Evelyn)

No. 3 singles - Jay Patel (Cheyenne Mountain) vs. Frazier Cavness ( Kent Denver)

No. 3 singles consolation - Phil Milspaugh (Silver Creek) vs. Marcus Pott (Ralston Valley)

No. 1 doubles - Cheyenne Mountain (Adams/Moore) vs. Kent Denver (Taylor/Carroll)

No. 1 doubles consolation - Steamboat Springs (Smith/Gibbs) vs. Montrose (Koski/Parks)

No. 2 doubles - Cheyenne Mountain (Semwal/Oldin) vs. Kent Denver (Bankoff /Mower)

No. 2 doubles consolation - Greeley West (Machado /Brown) vs. Broomfield (McShane/Roybal)

No. 3 doubles - Cheyenne Mountain (Cutter/Halling) vs. Kent Denver (Kelley/Martinez)

No. 3 doubles consolation - Steamboat Springs (Paley/Valicenti) vs. Greeley West (Begin/Bolton)

No. 4 doubles - Cheyenne Mountain (Lynch/Bowser) vs. Kent Denver (Guillod/Baker)

No. 4 doubles consolation - Broomfield (Kostecki/Schmidt) vs. Fossil Ridge (Penhale/Dolan)

— Standing courtside of the 4A Colorado State High School Tennis Championships is enough to make any good coach lose hair.

But unless Steamboat Springs' John Aragon and Don Toy can find a way to wiggle off the hook during the final day of the championships at Pueblo City Park, it looks as if the Steamboat tennis coaches will be losing all of their hair. Actually in Toy's case, it will be his eyebrows lost - to a razor when the team returns home this week.

"We are going to be two of the funniest looking guys in Steamboat Springs," Aragon joked Friday after Ramsey Bernard qualified for the championship match at No. 1 singles and the Sailors No. 1 and No. 3 doubles teams stayed alive in the playbacks.

In an effort to inspire their players, the two coaches offered to shave their heads in exchange for a third-place team finish at the state meet. Toy already has a buzz cut, so the players wanted him to shave off his eyebrows.

The idea of embarrassing their coaches was more than enough for the Steamboat players, who answered the call and moved into position to collect the team's best finish since 1998, when Steamboat also finished third.

Cheyenne Mountain advanced all 11 of the team's players to championship matches, taking a nine-point lead against Kent Denver with 70 points. Kent has 61 points and will need an Indian collapse on the final day for any chance at a state team title. Kent advanced players in all four doubles position and at No. 3 singles.

Steamboat holds a 5-point advantage against fourth-place Mullen, a 12-point advantage against fifth-place Greeley West and a 13-point lead against sixth-place Broomfield. Mullen is the closest team to Steamboat, but the Mustangs can pick up only 3 points on the final day and will not catch the Sailors.

Bernard became the first Sailor to reach the finals in the No. 1 position in the history of the Sailors tennis program.

"My goal at the beginning of the year was to make the finals," Bernard said. "I wasn't thinking too much about being the first from Steamboat; but I was just trying to come here and do my best and hopefully make the finals. It's nice to know that you're the first person from your town to accomplish something like this."

Bernard, who won a state title as a freshman in 2004 at No. 3, will take on Cheyenne Mountain's Justin Hermes for the title.

Bernard defeated Pueblo County's Miles Lucero, 6-1, 6-2, on Friday morning to earn his third trip to the championship round in four years. He has won 16 matches this season and lost only twice.

Hermes topped Mountain Range sophomore Andrew Flora, 6-4, 6-3, to advance.

"I have to keep serving well, keep consistent and keep my backhand strong," Bernard said. "Hopefully I will come out and play the way I have all tournament."

Steamboat's No. 1 and No. 3 doubles teams also stayed alive in the tournament. Both teams will be playing for third place in today's finals.

The Sailors No. 1 team of Charlie Smith and Alex Gibbs lost a tough match to Kent Denver's Moses Taylor and Matt Carroll in the semifinal. However, the team returned in the afternoon to beat Pueblo West, 6-1, 1-6 and 6-1.

"The loss to Kent Denver was disappointing, but we played great, and we needed to get ready for the next match," Gibbs said. "We made a lot of mistakes in that second set, but that's because we were not playing our game."

The victory against Pueblo sets up a Western Slope showdown with Montrose for third place. Montrose lost to Cheyenne Mountain in the semifinals but rebounded with a 6-0, 6-2 victory against Mullen to advance. Montrose lost to the Sailors in the regional tournament in a three-set match that went to a tiebreaker. Steamboat also beat Montrose earlier in the season, but at the time, Smith was teamed with Jordan Bernard not Gibbs.

"All we need to do is tell ourselves that we can go out and do it, and we can," Gibbs said.

Steamboat's No. 3 doubles team of Ben Paley and Zac Valicenti lost a tough match to Kent Denver on Thursday but battled back with two wins Friday. The Steamboat team knocked off Castle View, 7-6 (4) and 6-4, in an up-and-down match. The Sailors also beat D'Evelyn, 6-1, 7-6 (5), to stay alive.

"We just needed to keep up the intensity and keep our heads high," Valicenti said. "It feels great to be playing for third. It's our first time ever being here, and it's terrific. Hopefully we can pick it up even more."

Paley said the Steamboat team was flat against Castle View, but that after a few words from coach Aragon, the Sailors remembered what was at stake.

"We had to show him that we were ready," Paley said. "That was a big moment for our team, and it got us going."

That and the idea of seeing their coaches shaved heads and eyebrows.

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