Photo by Matt Stensland
Steamboat Springs High School No. 1 singles player Christi Valicenti tracks the ball during her match Saturday against Kent Denver. She won, 6-3, 6-3.
Steamboat Springs Two years ago, Claire Parsons had a knack for the dramatic.
Then a sophomore No. 3 singles player for Steamboat Springs, Parsons’ matches would inevitably seem to go three sets.
But after a year away from the game — she spent her junior year in Belgium as part of a youth exchange — Parsons seems to have found more confidence and tenacity in her game.
“It’s made me more of a level-headed player,” said Parsons, who had no trouble dispatching Kent Denver’s Caroline Adams, 6-0, 6-0, at No. 2 singles Saturday in Steamboat. “With singles, you sometimes get in your own head because you don’t have a doubles partner to talk to. Taking a break has definitely made me a more mature player.”
Parsons led a fierce Sailors attack Saturday, as Steamboat rolled through Kent Denver, 7-0.
Steamboat rarely had to break a sweat as six of the seven matches were decided in straight sets.
Maybe none were more impressive than the Sailors’ three singles players. Christi Valicenti, Parsons and Rachelle Steele-Cerone all won in straight sets, with Parsons and Steele-Cerone not dropping a game.
Getting back Parsons “is huge,” Steamboat coach John Aragon said. “Our singles players are playing just solid tennis. Christi had a big breakthrough. Claire had a tough loss Friday against a good girl. It was close, and she came out (Saturday) and took this girl apart.”
All four of Steamboat’s doubles teams won, with the only intrigue coming at No. 1 doubles.
Steamboat’s Ali Diehl and Lauren Siegel took a commanding 5-1 lead in the first set before allowing Kent Denver’s Madeline Booth and Elliott Haifleigh to come back and win the first set.
Finally, after three hours, Diehl and Siegel put finishing touches on a 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 win.
“It was very frustrating because we just kind of lost it in the first set,” said Diehl, who played No. 4 singles with Siegel two years ago. “We were up 5-1 and lost. We weren’t moving at all. But we’re used to three sets. I guess in later matches if we go three sets, we’ll know we’ve done it.”
Steamboat next plays Thursday in Grand Junction against Durango. The Western Slope Open, one of the top early season tournaments, then starts Friday and continues Saturday in Grand Junction.
Once Steamboat gets through that, the Sailors should have a clearer picture of how good the team actually is.
“It lets us know where we’re at and what we need to do to finish the season out,” Aragon said. “But I’m real pleased with all the kids. Everybody on both teams looked solid today.”