Doubles player Alli Lowrie returns a shot at the net during practice Tuesday afternoon at the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs. Lowrie, who plays No. 3 doubles with Rachel Grubbs, and the rest of the Sailors will begin play Thursday in Grand Junction.

Photo by John F. Russell

Doubles player Alli Lowrie returns a shot at the net during practice Tuesday afternoon at the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs. Lowrie, who plays No. 3 doubles with Rachel Grubbs, and the rest of the Sailors will begin play Thursday in Grand Junction.

Steamboat girls tennis shoots for 7th straight title

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Probable regional lineup

No. 1 singles

Christi Valicenti

No. 2 singles

Rachelle Steele-Cerone

No. 3 singles

Claire Parsons

No. 1 doubles

Lauren Siegel and Ali Diehl

No. 2 doubles

Ellie Bender and Kaitie Breisch

No. 3 doubles

Alli Lowrie and Rachel Grubbs

No. 4 doubles

Summer Smalley and Maria Hillenbrand

— Steamboat Springs High School girls tennis co-head coach Don Toy understands the situation.

In fact, the veteran coach sympathizes with the competition.

If he were, say, an opposing coach, he’d try and do the same thing. See Steamboat is to girls tennis what Lance Armstrong was to the Tour de France, New England is to the AFC East and the city of Buffalo is to losing.

The Sailors, in the simplest terms, have been the preeminent team in their region. Steamboat has won the past six regional titles, and all signs point to No. 7 coming at the conclusion of the regional tournament in Grand Junction, which lasts Thursday through Saturday.

And that bull’s-eye Steamboat has built on its chest can be a good thing and a bad thing.

“If I was from another school, I would be the first coach to say, ‘Let’s beat them,’” Toy said Wednesday. “It’s motivating for our kids, and that’s the way it should be. There might be a 100 people there, and 98 will be cheering for the other side. Hopefully, we use that to our advantage.”

Although continuing the regional streak remains at the forefront, the bottom line at the regional tournament is to qualify for state. The top two individuals or teams in each position earn trips to the state tournament.

“The ultimate goal is to win first or second and get to state,” said senior and No. 3 singles player Claire Parsons. “It also comes with the fact we’ve won so many in a row. We want to keep that, but the main goal is to make state.”

Steamboat should have a chance to get the entire team to state.

The team, after a few early season blips, began to show itself as one of the upper echelon teams in Class 4A.

The Sailors won the Western Slope Open in Grand Junction earlier this season and continued that momentum through the end of the year.

Still, there are some questions entering into the regional fold this year.

Mainly, what will an emerging Durango team bring?

Durango and Steamboat faced off earlier in the season with the Sailors walking away with a narrow, 4-3, win.

Steamboat got singles wins from No. 2 Rachelle Steele-Cerone and No. 3 Parsons as well as the No. 1 doubles team of Lauren Siegel and Ali Diehl and the No. 2 doubles team of Kaitie Breisch and Ellie Bender.

The No. 3 doubles team of Alli Lowrie and Rachel Grubbs and No. 4 doubles team of Summer Smalley and Maria Hillenbrand lost in three sets.

No. 1 singles player Christi Valicenti lost to Eva-Lou Edwards. Edwards is one of the top singles players in the state.

The key will be getting through Thursday and Friday’s matches unscathed and unblemished in the winner’s bracket.

If they do that, Steamboat should not only have a chance at making state, but also continuing its claim of dominance in the region.

“That’s what we’re shooting for,” co-head coach John Aragon said. “That’s what we would like to happen. If the girls work hard, they can make it happen.”

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com

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