Steamboat Springs  High School sophomore Christi Valicenti returns a ball Friday in a match against Boulder High School’s Caila Criss. Valicenti, playing at No. 1 singles, won the match, 6-3, 6-3.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Steamboat Springs High School sophomore Christi Valicenti returns a ball Friday in a match against Boulder High School’s Caila Criss. Valicenti, playing at No. 1 singles, won the match, 6-3, 6-3.

Steamboat girls tennis team takes 2 wins

Sailors tennis squad opens season with victories

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Girls tennis team results

Steamboat vs. Air Academy

Friday

No. 1 singles Jenna Milliaman, Air Academy, def. Christi Valicenti, Steamboat, 7-6 (5), 7-2

No. 2 singles Kateri Kaltenbacher, Air Academy, def. Sara Bearss, Steamboat, 6-4, 7-5

No. 3 singles Kylee Swiggart, Steamboat, def. Claire Zombola, Air Academy, 6-4, 6-3

No. 1 doubles Mandy Thieleman and Lauren Siegel, Steamboat, def. Amy Klingensmith, 6-2, 6-3

No. 2 doubles Ali Diehl and Alli Lowrie, Steamboat, def. Mehar Tatavarthi and Anna Gruen, Air Academy, 6-0, 6-1

No. 3 Courtney Brantly and Jana Buchel, Air Academy, def. Summer Smalley and Rachel Grubbs, Steamboat, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (4)

No. 4 Maria Hillenbrand and Katie Ross, Steamboat, def. Tina Baker and Grace Kim, Air Academy, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7)

Steamboat vs. Boulder

No. 1 singles Valicenti def. Caila Criss, Boulder, 6-3, 6-3

No. 2 singles Miguela Newhart, Air Academy, def. Bearss, 6-3, 6-1

No. 3 singles Swiggart def. Ronnie Myers, Boulder, 6-2, 6-3

No. 1 doubles Kayla Morrissey and Chloe Kishel, Boulder, def. Thieleman and Siegel, 6-3, 6-2

No. 2 doubles Diehl and Lowrie def. Caroline Buhse and Liza Romanov, 6-4, 6-4

No. 3 doubles Lucy Shaw and Eliz Shaw, Boulder, def. Smalley and Grubbs 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-1

No. 4 doubles Hillenbrand and Sara Hoing def. Shanti van Vuuren and Lexy Mangan, Boulder, 6-2, 7-6 (4), 6-4

— The Steamboat Springs High School girls tennis team that took the courts Friday afternoon was far from the one some might have expected to see when the team wrapped up its run in the state tournament last spring.

The Sailors had figured to bring back all nine of their players who qualified for that tournament and all but one of their varsity team members.

A lot can change in a year, however, and because of injuries and players moving away with families or to pursue tennis careers at private academies, Steamboat was left with plenty of holes to fill.

The girls managed just fine.

Steamboat opened its season Friday with a pair victories at the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs. Relying on a pieced-together lineup and a wealth of varsity first-timers, the Sailors took four of seven matches in each of their two duals, defeating Air Academy and Boulder High School.

“I’m a little surprised our young team came out and battled to win for the 2-0 start,” Steamboat coach John Aragon said. “These were both quality opponents. We’re very proud of the kids. They really stepped up and played hard today.”

Both duals were tightly contested and both came down to the last match. And times that was the No. 4 doubles teams. Maria Hillenbrand played in for Steamboat. Katie Ross partnered with her for a thrilling 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7) against Air Academy’s doubles squad, and Hillenbrand joined Sara Hoing for the win 6-2, 6-7 (4), 6-4 win against Boulder.

“It was exciting. I’m a little tired, but our coaches were feeding us to give us energy,” Hillenbrand said.

The key late in her second long match of the night: Honey Stinger energy snacks.

“We worked hard, we worked on our returns, and we got it,” Hoing said.

Elsewhere, Kylee Swiggart, playing at No. 3 singles and Ali Diehl and Alli Lowrie, together at No. 2 doubles, won both their matches.

Mandy Thieleman and Lau­ren Siegel won against Boulder at No. 1 doubles, and Christi Valicenti, a sophomore playing her first high school singles match, won against her Boulder opponent at No. 1 singles.

Last season she played on the No. 3 doubles team but made the jump to Steamboat’s top spot this year.

“It’s really exciting. I can’t believe I’m playing one singles. It’s an honor,” Valicenti said. “I knew I wanted singles this season and had been training all summer to do so. My work paid off.”

What exactly the team will look like down the road remains up in the air. Aragon said he expects three experienced players to join the squad once their ski seasons wrap up, and another two potential varsity players still could join the team, as well.

Friday’s victorious team members weren’t quite ready to cede their spots, however.

“It should be fun,” Hillen­brand said. “We played well tonight and won, so hopefully that helps us to get more varsity matches.”

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