Gary Osteen, of Steamboat Springs, returns a volley  Thursday afternoon during a match against Jamey Swiggart at the 2008 City Singles and Doubles Tennis Championships. Tournament play opened Thursday and will run through Sunday.

Photo by John F. Russell

Gary Osteen, of Steamboat Springs, returns a volley Thursday afternoon during a match against Jamey Swiggart at the 2008 City Singles and Doubles Tennis Championships. Tournament play opened Thursday and will run through Sunday.

Top dogs in play at city championships

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— They may not allow pets underneath the protective cover of the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs, but that will not stop the local tennis community from uncovering the area's top dogs this week.

Play in the 2008 Steamboat Springs City Singles and Doubles Tennis Championships opened Thursday afternoon with play in the Masters Division. The tournament will continue through Sunday, when the championship matches will take center stage. Players will compete for titles in men's and women's divisions ranging from 3.0 to 4.5 in singles and doubles divisions.

Juniors also can play, but, the city's junior and mixed championships will be held Jan. 16 to 18.

"This is one of the biggest local tournament's of the season," 2007 women's champion Stacy Swiggart said. "It's all-inclusive, and it's a chance for local players to find out who the top dogs really are."

Swiggart had hoped to defend her title this year, but she rolled her ankle and will not play. Six women - Fabiola Katthain, Becky Lamb, Sue Swain, Laurie Buelow, Meg Tully and Shelby Reed - will be in the running to be the next women's champion.

Last year's defending men's champion, Andy Caress, also is unable to defend his title. This year, seven men and one woman will compete for that coveted honor. The field will include Gary Osteen, Jim Swiggart, Jamey Swiggart, Jeff Oehrlein, Louis Nijsten, Grice Hooker and Dave Schaller. Tennis pro Marie Matrka also will play on the men's side of the Masters Division.

Matrka attended Coastal Carolina University, where she was named her team's Most Valuable Player for the 2004-05 season and named Player of the Year for women's tennis in the Big South in 2005 Conference.

Matrka also is accustomed to playing with the boys. At her high school in Wilmington, Ohio, she played No. 2 singles for the boys team.

More recently, Matrka won the women's open division at the Cincinnati Open and was a finalist at the Colorado Open.

This week she hopes to challenge Steamboat's top men's players for the title of city champion.

Jim Swiggart, the executive director of the Tennis Center, said this tournament provides the perfect format for players to test their skills. He said this is one of the most popular local tournaments of the year in Steamboat, and that it drew 91 players this time around.

"This is one of the largest turnouts we've ever had for this tournament," Swiggart said.

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