Steamboat tennis picks up 6th consecutive regionals title

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— The Steamboat Springs High School girls tennis team unleashed what coach John Aragon termed one of its best-ever days of tennis Friday in Grand Junction, crushing its opponents to win a sixth consecutive regional championship.

The Sailors won all six finals matches they had entries in, sweeping the board from No. 2 singles to No. 4 doubles.

Christi Valicenti, meanwhile, finished third at No. 1 singles.

“It went really well,” Aragon said. “Like, really well. We had some kids really step up and play.”

Kylee Swiggart definitely made his list of players who stepped up. Facing a tough challenge at No. 2 singles, Swiggart won an exciting three-set match. She bounced back after losing the first set, 6-1, taking the final two, 6-4, 6-2.

That set the tone for Steam­­boat. Entering the day, the squad was in a virtual dead heat with Vail Mountain for the overall team championship. The rivals matched up in four finals matches, and whichever team fared better was likely to win the title.

Steamboat won all four, starting with Swiggart’s victory.

“It was the best match I’ve ever seen her play,” Aragon said. “She first tried to out-hit the girl. That wouldn’t have worked. Then she used a variety of shots and placed the ball and ended up winning.”

Mandy Thielemann won in straight sets at No. 3 singles, and Sara Bearss and Kate Cooper won in straight sets at No. 1 doubles. Ali Diehl and Alli Lowrie barely broke a sweat, winning, 6-1, 6-1, at No. 2 doubles.

Lauren Siegel and Rachel Grubbs won with a straight set victory at No. 3 doubles, and Kate Ross and Summer Smalley bounced back from a 4-3 second-set deficit to win at No. 4 doubles, 6-1, 6-4.

It all amounted to an easy win for the Steamboat team. The squad finished with 93 points, well ahead of Vail’s 57. Montrose was third with 34.

All six regional champions advance to play in the state tennis tournament, which starts Thursday in Pueblo.

“To have that many champions and to see the level of play that occurred in the finals, that was just great,” Aragon said. “From No. 1 singles all the way down to our No. 4 doubles, the whole team played solid tennis. It was impressive.”

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