Steamboat Springs senior Summer Smalley winces after a shot Thursday at the state tennis tournament in Pueblo. It was a rough day for the Sailors, as all seven entries in the tournament, 11 players, lost. Four entries can get back in the tournament Friday via playback opportunities.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Steamboat Springs senior Summer Smalley winces after a shot Thursday at the state tennis tournament in Pueblo. It was a rough day for the Sailors, as all seven entries in the tournament, 11 players, lost. Four entries can get back in the tournament Friday via playback opportunities.

Steamboat girls tennis team stumbles at state

Squad hoping for playback windows

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— The bright side is that more than half of the Steamboat Springs High School tennis team still has a chance to get back in the Class 4A state tennis tournament in Pueblo.

Considering the Sailors’ history of success at the tournament, however, even the brightest of outlooks was dimmed after Thursday’s action. Steamboat struggled mightily as each of the team’s seven entries lost on the tournament’s first day.

On Friday, the four entries not entirely eliminated will wait to see if they get a playback opportunity.

“I figured we’d have three spots in the semis, at a minimum,” Steamboat coach John Aragon said. “It’s hard that we didn’t get there, but we need to learn how to close, how to win those points. ... Even in some areas, we were better athletes, but we don’t just have the hours in competitive environments. When we can match those hours, then we can come here, and we’ll be in the hunt.”

Rachel Grubbs at No. 2 singles, Kira Lorenzen and Shealie Jenkins at No. 2 doubles, Summer Smalley and Brooke Metzler at No. 3 doubles and Malia Fraioli and Katie Spencer at No. 4 doubles all won in the first round and lost in the second. If the teams that beat them win again in Friday morning’s semifinals, they’ll get back into the tournament and could finish as high as third.

If those teams don’t win in the semifinals, Steamboat’s season will have ended Thursday.

The Sailors’ No. 1 singles player Christi Valicenti, No. 3 singles player Ellie Bender and No. 1 doubles team of Ali Diehl and Alli Lowrie all lost in the first round and were eliminated from contention when their opponents fell in the second.

“It didn’t happen for us, but I’m still proud of the team and the program,” Aragon said.

Despite the lousy aftertaste that lingered Thursday afternoon, the day wasn’t without highlights, and most came from the four entries that managed to advance at least once.

Grubbs won perhaps the most exciting match of the day, outdueling Eaton’s Anna Brown to win a three-set match, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, each set closer than the score might indicate.

“I just came out and wanted to win that third set,” Grubbs said. “I was placing my shots across the court and putting it where she couldn’t get it.”

She had the pace of play dictated to her later, however. She hung with Cheyenne Mountain’s Payton Fielding briefly, trailing, 3-2, early in the first set, but Fielding controlled the court the rest of the way, pushing the ball to the corners and constantly hammering it to the open space. Fielding won, 6-2, 6-0.

Lorenzen and Jenkins cruised in a sound first-round victory, both delighted in overcoming nerves and a Pueblo County pair in their state tournament debut.

“I wasn’t nervous coming in, but then when I saw the other team, it was like, ‘Oh my gosh! This is real!’” Lorenzen said. “It was pretty nice to win at state.”

Things weren’t nearly as easy hours later in a 6-3, 6-2 loss to Kent Denver.

Those first-match nerves were something Fraioli and Spencer also became familiar with, and they, too, handled them well in their state tournament introduction, cruising by a Canon City team.

They stumbled hard in the first set of a second-round matchup against a Cheyenne Mountain squad but were much stronger in the second set of what was a two-set loss. They played perhaps their best tennis of the day, even the season, winning plenty of tough points but losing a few key ones to fall, 7-5.

“We knew that we could do it in the second set and that we just needed to put the pieces together,” Spencer said.

“We played really well in the second set,” Fraioli said. “We can be happy we made it here, and we made it to the second round.”

That was a sentiment that wasn’t lost on the rest of the team.

Metzler and Smalley at No. 3 doubles blew through their first-round match, winning, 6-3, 6-2. They couldn’t find any footing against a tough Kent Denver team and lost, 6-2, 6-3.

They said they’ll head to the courts Friday and pull for Kent Denver. They’ll hope to get another crack, but even if they don’t, the end of the season wasn’t so rotten.

Thursday was a bad day for the Steamboat Springs High School tennis team’s state tournament dreams, but it was not a bad day for the Steamboat Springs High School tennis team.

“Our team moves on pretty quick,” Metzler said, confirming that more than a night of sobbing and what-ifs awaited in the team hotel.

“It would have been nice, but it will be all right,” Smalley continued, lamenting that she wasn’t at her best in the final match. “It will be a lot nicer if a few of us get back in through playbacks.”

Schedule changes

Organizers at the Class 4A state tennis tournament in Pueblo acted proactively Thursday morning to head off predicted Saturday thunderstorms. They bumped Friday's schedule up an hour, from 9 a.m. to 8 a.m., then canceled play Saturday, moving the championship and consolation finals ahead to Friday afternoon.

Results

No. 1 singles

■ Alex Middleton, Valor Christian, def. Christi Valicenti, Steamboat, 6-0, 6-3

No. 2 singles

■ Rachel Grubbs, Steamboat, def. Anna Brown, Eaton, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2

■ Payton Fielding, Cheyenne Mountain, def. Grubbs, 6-2, 6-0

No. 3 singles

■ Maddie Surby, Broomfield, def. Ellie Bender, Steamboat, 6-4, 6-3

No. 1 doubles

■ Monro Obenauer and Shivaun Wood, Broomfield, def. Ali Diehl and Allie Lowrie, Steamboat, 6-4, 6-3

No. 2 doubles

■ Kira Lorenzen and Shealie Jenkins, Steamboat, def. Dara Mysliwiec and Jacqueline Hernandez, Pueblo County, 6-3, 6-4

■ Sophia Hsiao and Elizabeth Smedley, Kent Denver, def. Lorenzen and Jenkins, 6-3, 6-2

No. 3 doubles

■ Summer Smalley and Brooke Metzler, Steamboat, def. Jaqueline Guiterres and Gracie Williams, Vanguard, 6-3, 6-2

■ Madeline Booth and Olivia Dansky, Kent Denver, def. Smalley and Metzler, 6-3, 6-2

No. 4 doubles

■ Malia Fraioli and Katie Spencer, Steamboat, def. Jessica Loper and Kaylene Squire, Canon City, 6-2, 6-3.

■ Caroline Fitzhugh and Alison Lynch, Cheyenne Mountain, def. Fraioli and Spencer, 6-1, 7-5

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com

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