Steamboat girls tennis opens season today

Coach: Roster still in flux as Steamboat team faces Thompson Valley in opener

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— The high school girls tennis season opens this morning when Steamboat Springs hosts Thompson Valley in the first match of the year.

“I played them in the past when I was coaching at Eaton,” Sailors coach John Aragon said. “But I have not seen them in 15 years, so I’m not really sure what to expect. They normally have pretty decent teams, and this should be a good way to open the season”

With more than 30 players out for the Steamboat team, most of whom are returning from last year’s squad, the girls are ready to get rolling and excited about the upcoming season.

Aragon said the introductions are set to begin at 8:30 a.m. today, with the first varsity matches taking the court at 8:45 a.m. Today’s match against Thompson Valley will be the first of eight home matches for the Sailors this season.

“This team has a lot of depth,” Aragon said. “We want to give our players the opportunities they need to succeed on the court.”

The team’s depth has made it tough to settle on a starting lineup. The coach said he expects junior Christi Valicenti to fill the No. 1 singles position, senior Claire Parsons to fill the No. 2 slot, and newcomer Rachelle Steele-Cerone to fill the No. 3 position.

Things are a little less clear in doubles, where the team of Kaitie Breisch and Alli Lowrie and the duo of Lauren Siegel and Ali Diehl still are fighting it out for the No. 1 and No. 2 slots. The story is the same at No. 3 and No. 4, where Rachel Grubbs and Ellie Bender are competing against Summer Smalley and Katie Ross. Aragon also expects veteran Maria Hillenbrand to factor in once she has finished skiing this season.

Aragon said the doubles teams were scheduled to play matches against one another Friday afternoon to determine the final lineup for today’s season opener. But with a strong group of younger players, the roster could be subject to change during the early part of the season.

“It’s going to take a few matches before things settle out and there could be some changes,” Aragon said.

The good news for the Sailors is that they open the season with several matches at home. Steamboat is home against Boulder on March 18 and against Kent Denver on March 19 before heading to Grand Junction for a match against Durango and the first major tournament of the season March 25 and 26.

The team also will enjoy an extended home stand April 1 to 9 when it will host Fossil Ridge, Poudre Valley, Aspen and Evergreen at the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs. The team hits the road for a match against Denver East and the Mullen tournament before returning home for the final home matches of the season April 29 and 30 against Air Academy. The regional tournament is May 5 to 7, and the state championships are May 11 to 14 in Pueblo.

— To reach John F. Russell call 970-871-4209 or e-mail jrussell@SteamboatToday.com

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