Katie Ross swings for a return on Saturday as the Steamboat Springs High School girls tennis team beat Evergreen, six matches to one.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Katie Ross swings for a return on Saturday as the Steamboat Springs High School girls tennis team beat Evergreen, six matches to one.

Steamboat tennis picks up win against Evergreen

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Steamboat's Maria Hillenbrand tracks the ball on Saturday as the Steamboat Springs girls tennis team beat Evergreen in Steamboat.

— Headed into one of their toughest weeks of the season, the Steamboat Springs High School girls tennis team was near top form Saturday, despite playing with a shuffled lineup.

The squad played a few girls out of their usual positions but still beat Evergreen, winning six of seven matches at a Saturday morning dual.

“That’s a very good day,” Steamboat coach Don Toy said. “I’m really happy with the progress of the team.”

Missing several players, Steamboat was forced to adjust its entries into the event. Brooke Metzler was bumped up from her usual No. 4 doubles spot to fill in at No. 3 singles. Katie Ross played on the No. 3 doubles team with Rachel Grubbs, and Maria Hillenbrand played at No. 4 doubles for the second time in as many days.

Those moves sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t.

Grubbs and Ross were great early and late, but had to go to three sets to win, 6-2, 4-6, 6-1.

“In the second set we definitely weren’t moving our feet, and we were making stupid mistakes,” Grubbs said.

“We got back up in the third and played to our level,” Ross added.

Smalley and Hillenbrand showed off their chemistry with a 6-1, 6-4 victory.

Hillenbrand was slow getting started with the team this season, often missing time as her competitive ski season wrapped up. It remains to be determined what role she might play when the regional tournament rolls around in May, whether she’ll play in that tournament on a varsity team, or whether the squad’s depth will leave her off.

Saturday she helped make her case, teaming with Smalley for their second easy win in as many days.

“I will need to keep my shots consistent and be aggressive at the net,” Hillenbrand said.

Only Metzler struggled, falling in her first varsity singles action of the season. She lost, 6-1, 6-0, a victim of a tough opponent and, according to Toy, nerves associated with her biggest spotlight of the season.

“That was really tough. She’s never been in that situation,” Toy said. “It was a great learning experience. She’s a great kid and has a lot of potential.”

Elsewhere, Steamboat rolled.

Rachelle Steele-Cerone won 6-0, 6-2 at No. 2 singles. The No. 1 doubles tandem of Ali Diehl and Lauren Siegel had little trouble, giving up just two games in their win. Kaitie Breisch and Ellie Bender did them one better, losing just one game in a two-set victory.

Christi Valicenti, meanwhile, continued her torrid season at No. 1 singles, blasting past Claire Babb, 6-1, 6-0.

“I’ve really learned to control my temper on the court and not get so angry about the littlest things,” said Valicenti, 7-1 this season. “I’m trying to be as consistent as I can.”

The 6-1 team victory wrapped up a 13-1 weekend for the Sailors. They’ll get the chance to prove they’re really that good this week. The squad plays Thursday at Denver East and then Friday and Saturday in an elite tournament at Mullen High School.

“Next week will be a real test for the team,” Toy said.

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