Steamboat girls tennis close to 6th regional title

4 matches vs. Vail Mountain to decide champion today

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— The Steamboat Springs High School tennis team is where it had hoped to be entering the second and final day of the regional tennis tournament in Grand Junction. The squad has six of its seven entries in regionals finals matches, and with one more good round of tennis, the girls can wrap up their sixth consecutive team regional championship.

The main hurdle standing in the way of the Sailors, both the team and in many of the individual matches, is Vail Mountain.

Steamboat leads the team standings with 67 points, ahead of Vail’s 56, after Thursday’s competition. The rivals are scheduled to clash in four matches today. They will decide the overall team champion.

“We have to come out and play to win,” Steamboat coach John Aragon said. “We have to hit our shots and play high-percentage tennis. If they play high-percentage tennis, get first serves in and get cross-court returns in, they should be able to win this.”

Steamboat got solid tennis from its entire roster.

Kylee Swiggart cruised through her bracket at No. 2 singles. Mandy Thielemann got through at No. 3 singles. The No. 1 doubles team of Sara Bearss and Kate Cooper struggled in a first-round match against a Delta team but bounced back to win. They later throttled a team from Aspen to advance to the finals.

Ali Diehl and Alli Lowrie advanced at No. 2 doubles, Lauren Siegel and Rachel Grubbs at No. 3 doubles and Kate Ross and Summer Smalley at No. 4 doubles.

The team’s lone setback came at No. 1 singles where sophomore Christi Valicenti lost a grueling two-set match against Vail Mountain, 6-2, 7-6 (6). The loss knocked Valicenti from the semifinals into the consolation bracket, but it didn’t erase her chances of going to state. The top two finishers from each division advance to next weekend’s state tournament, and Valicenti can find renewed life if she wins her consolation finals match and can get a playback opportunity.

“She lost that match, but she played with a lot of guts,” Aragon said. “It was really a great match.”

The playback rule, which gives a third-place finisher the right to challenge a second-place finisher if the pair haven’t already played each other in the tournament, kept the Sailors from celebrating Thursday night. Six of the team’s entries are poised to advance to state, but a stumble in the finals could leave them fighting for their bid to state in a playback match.

“They just have to come out ready to play and stay focused,” Aragon said. “They have to work hard and make sure things happen.”

The tournament wraps up today.

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