Reichenberger: Weiss a worthy hero

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Molly Weiss doesn't have the make of your average hero.

But a hero is just what she was this weekend for the Steamboat Springs girls tennis team.

The three-day trip to the state tournament in Pueblo wasn't what the Sailors were expecting. Steamboat came away with a fourth-place finish, not as high as coach John Aragon admitted he thought possible.

The Sailors came away with one individual champion, Weiss. And while that was critically important - she's the first Steamboat girl to ever win one - Aragon said he thought the team might win several.

There were plenty of unlucky bounces and unfortunate brackets, but the one unstoppable force was Weiss.

She was one of the least likely Sailors to win her bracket. She lost her first set of the tournament and didn't enter either her semifinal or the championship as the favorite, having lost earlier in the season to both opponents.

Weiss became the one thing the team could count on, and her dependability wasn't the only thing that set her aside as the weekend's hero, and her upsets in the final two rounds weren't the only things that made her achieving that status surprising.

In a sport with elaborate outfits and always-matching hair ribbons, a sport with smiles and high fives between every point won and lost, Weiss seems almost out of place.

She chastised herself all tournament, and at times gave her coaches and fans the same treatment.

Her sometimes loud and always self-critical comments left many in the stands - those who didn't know her - trading confused looks and often laughs. One opponent even mocked her after a point.

Weiss wasn't ever rude, though. She'd attack herself after nearly every unforced error, but always - always - applauded an opponent for a great shot.

At least three of her four opponents on the weekend, at some point, probably thought they would win. But frustration often got the best of them as Weiss tore them apart with strong serves and well-placed shots.

Weiss said her comments help keep her from throwing her racket. They didn't do much to stop opponents. As Weiss drew near each victory, her foes acted out, snapping back at her, kicking the ball away or harshly dropping the racket.

Her patience proved a virtue not just in Pueblo but in her entire high school career.

Weiss became Steamboat's first champion after playing three years as a member of a doubles team. She grew up a singles player, but couldn't capture one of the varsity spots until this year. How many kids would have kept playing? How many would have kept playing and kept learning the lessons?

Those lessons paid off. Weiss said Friday she wouldn't have been able to accomplish anything this season had she not learned how to play doubles-style tennis. Her net game was critical in all of her matches, and when she first entered high school, she was seriously deficient in that area.

It all paid off Saturday for Weiss, Steamboat's unexpected state tennis hero.

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