Steamboat tennis sweeps through 1st day of regionals

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— The Steamboat Springs High School tennis team has enjoyed plenty of success throughout the years at the regional tennis tournament. That comes with the territory when a program wins eight consecutive championships at the event, as the Sailors have.

Still, the squad couldn’t help but take a few moments to revel in what, even by their definition, was a great Thursday.

Steamboat opened its title defense by pushing all seven entries in the Grand Junction tournament into Friday’s finals matches, all but assuring the entire team will be headed to next week’s state tournament in Pueblo and that the team will be wrapping up its ninth title.

“I’m just very impressed with the team,” coach John Aragon said. “They fought through a lot of adversity. When things weren’t going well, they found a way to win. They were tenacious and they really laid it on the line.”

All seven entries — three singles players and four doubles teams — will play in the finals starting at 9 a.m. Friday.

Christi Valicenti helped lead the team at No. 1 singles. She’ll fight Friday to win her first regional championship. She cruised to that match with a 6-0, 6-0 romp in the semifinals.

She’ll have her work cut out for her Friday, though. Her Durango opponent beat her last year and accounts for her only loss this season.

“There’s definitely a lot of pressure. My goal is to go home with a regional title, first place,” she said. “That would definitely boost my confidence for what I’m capable of at state.”

Rachel Grubbs at No. 2 singles and Ellie Bender at No. 3 singles also punched through.

Seniors Alli Lowrie and Ali Diehl, playing at No. 1 doubles, are veterans of the regional championship match. Diehl has won there three times and Lowrie two.

They hope to make it one more Friday.

“We’re a better team because Alli and I have figured out how to work together better,” Diehl said. “When we’re on the court, there’s good chemistry.”

“We just have to go out, take charge of the match and make sure they don’t even get a chance to get into it,” Lowrie added.

Shealie Jenkins and Kira Lorenzen at No. 2 doubles got through without a problem, as did Summer Smalley and Brooke Metzler at No. 3 doubles, winning 6-3, 6-2.

“We compliment each other really well,” Smalley said. “She’s been good on ground strokes and I’m good at the net.”

Malia Fraioli and Katie Spencer, meanwhile, charged into the finals at No. 4 doubles.

“What really impressed me was the team play,” Aragon said. “When one partner wasn’t playing well, it was great to see the other step up and make some great shots. It was great to see them all fight hard enough to make it into the finals.”

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