Steamboat Springs No. 3 singles player Corbin Diehl returns a shot during a match against Boulder on Friday afternoon at the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs.

Photo by John F. Russell

Steamboat Springs No. 3 singles player Corbin Diehl returns a shot during a match against Boulder on Friday afternoon at the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs.

Steamboat Springs High School tennis team enters year inexperienced

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Steamboat Springs No. 1 doubles player Ben Wharton returns a shot during a match against Boulder on Friday afternoon at the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs.

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Steamboat Springs No. 2 doubles player Nick Mathews returns a shot during a match against Boulder on Friday afternoon at the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs.

— There always are expectations and optimism surrounding the Steamboat Springs High School boys tennis team.

That's what happens when the team has become the class of the Western Slope, earning 14 straight regional titles.

But on Friday at the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs, things had a little bit of a different feel.

Gone is the long line of experience that preceded this year’s team. The team has two seniors and just a few with varsity experience.

“My goal is to do well at regionals, which means winning,” said Don Toy, who took over the head coach position from John Aragon. “We’ll be ready by then.”

Friday, however, proved there is much work to do.

The team opened the season in gauntlet-like fashion. The team lost 6-1 to Boulder early in the day and 6-1 to Mullen in the afternoon.

Saturday’s slate doesn’t get much easier with a 10:30 a.m. match with Rocky Mountain and a 1:30 p.m. tilt with Kent Denver.

All four of those teams usually are in the conversation when it comes time for state tennis.

“It’s a tough start,” said junior Corbin Diehl, one of the teams returning players. “It’s nice to know what the competition is right away. We jumped in and got it going.”

Diehl was the lone Sailors player Friday to pick up a win against Mullen, outlasting Adam George at No. 3 singles in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3.

Senior Gabri Erspamer picked up Steamboat’s win against Boulder, beating Ethan Anderson at No. 2 singles, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.

“It helps get the nerves out from these first matches,” said Erspamer. “These are teams we usually see in the middle of the season or at regionals. It caught us off guard a little bit.”

Friday, though, shouldn’t be indicative of what will play out this season, Toy said. In addition to Diehl and Erspamer, the team returns singles players Colin Green and Stefan Sortland.

Doubles players will include Ben Wharton, Quinn Cain, Nick Mathews, Zach Dunklin, Steven Hathaway, Joe Borgerding, Charlie Schmidt and Tonio Ranieri.

Although there isn’t a lot of experience in that group, Toy said the long-term goal is to be in top position by regionals.

While the regional field continues to get deeper, Toy said there is no reason to think that Steamboat won’t get its 15th title this year.

“I don’t like the word rebuilding,” he said. “We’re getting experience. By the end of the season, I know we’ll do well at regionals.”

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

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