Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs High School girls tennis team usually finds itself as the favorite in matches on the Western Slope.
As the most dominant team in the region, the Sailors rarely get to see top-level competition from the rest of the state. But that's why today and Saturday's Western Slope Tournament in Grand Junction has become a fixture on the Sailors schedule.
Steamboat will see top teams including Cherry Creek, Ralston Valley and Niwot. The 16-team tournament features some of the top teams and players in the state in a challenging competition.
"It's a good barometer for us," Steamboat coach John Aragon said. "It's just to see where we're at and at what level our kids are ready to compete at."
While Steamboat is experienced at the singles positions with seniors Lisa Floyd and Molly Weiss, as well as junior Shelby Reed, Aragon said the tournament is especially important for many of his younger players.
Often times, Aragon said, the Class 5A competition Steamboat sees at the tournament will be the best the team sees all year, including the regional and state meet.
"For the most part, kids are pretty new to it," Aragon said. "But they're looking at it like they're pretty excited. That's all we can ask of these young kids. With our seniors and our singles players, any one of them making the finals wouldn't surprise me. They definitely have the ability to do so."
Steamboat should have a full complement of players this weekend. Last week against Glenwood Springs, Steamboat was without Reed, who was playing a tournament in Las Vegas.
Sophomore Valerie Lezin filled in for Reed, winning in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2.
Aragon said with his full team and each player in the position they will most likely be in for the rest of the year, the top-heavy tournament will give the Sailors a gauge of what needs to be done before the regional tournament, May 1 and 2.
"It's going to be a lot of fun," Aragon said. "They'll play a variety of levels. It'll be great to see how they compete against some top 5A teams. What an experience for these girls."
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