Steamboat Springs High School's Zack Dunklin works on his serve Tuesday afternoon at the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs. Dunklin and his teammates are preparing for the state tennis tournament, which will begin in Pueblo on Thursday.

Photo by John F. Russell

Steamboat Springs High School's Zack Dunklin works on his serve Tuesday afternoon at the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs. Dunklin and his teammates are preparing for the state tennis tournament, which will begin in Pueblo on Thursday.

Steamboat Springs tennis team readies for state tournament in Pueblo

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— There wasn’t a huge sense of disbelief or agony Tuesday on the outdoor courts at the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs.

Strangely, there was fun.

Sure, the Steamboat Springs High School tennis team saw Aspen put an end to Steamboat’s string of 14 straight regional titles during the weekend by a mere six points.

But the silver lining is Steamboat did qualify all 11 players for the state tournament.

The tournament begins Thursday in Pueblo and runs until Saturday.

“It was tough,” said Gabri Erspamer, Steamboat’s No. 2 singles player. “It was unexpected in a way. We usually expect ourselves to take the title. But (Aspen) deserved it and were playing really well. But because of all the pressure of regionals being gone, it will help us at state. We’ll play our best at state. We don’t have any expectations.”

The Sailors, with just a pair of regional champions, probably are considered heavy underdogs to earn a medal.

Outside of regional championships from the No. 1 doubles team of Corbin Diehl and Ben Wharton, and the No. 3 doubles team of Zach Dunklin and Joe Borgerding, Steamboat won’t have favorable draws in the first round.

“Now, we go to state as the underdog,” coach Don Toy said. “Hopefully, we can pull off an upset or two. I think we’ll surprise one or two teams with an upset.”

Steamboat also will be represented by Colin Green at No. 1 singles, Stefan Sortland at No. 3 singles, Quinn Cain and Nick Mathews at No. 2 doubles and Matthew White and Aidan Gibbs at No. 4 doubles.

“We have nothing to lose,” Mathews said. “There is no point in being nervous. There aren’t huge expectations on us. I just want to play as well as I can and let it go from there.”

The one team that looks like it might make some noise is the pairing of Diehl and Wharton. After struggling to beat Aspen in the regular season — it took two tiebreakers — the pair cruised in the regional finals.

“That was the best match we played together,” Wharton said. “It couldn’t be any better going into state. I’m relaxed and excited to see how things go.”

Without expectations, Toy said he’s excited to see how his team responds. Besides, a team playing loose is always one of the most dangerous teams.

“This year, we’re going in having fun,” he said. “I’d love to see an upset or two.”

Class 4A state tennis draw

No. 1 singles: Niwot’s Harrison Lang vs. Steamboat’s Colin Green.

No. 2 singles: Mullen’s Jason Cleary vs. Steamboat’s Gabri Erspamer.

No. 3 singles: Air Academy’s Keenan Kaltenbacher vs. Steamboat’s Stefan Sortland.

No. 1 doubles: Canon City’s Alex Albrecht and Nick Beaumont vs. Steamboat’s Corbin Diehl and Ben Wharton.

No. 2 doubles: Air Academy’s Jeff Milliman and Kent Schaller vs. Steamboat’s Quinn Cain and Nick Mathews.

No. 3 doubles: Fountain Valley’s Grant Long and Phil Fan vs. Steamboat’s Zach Dunklin and Joe Borgerding.

No. 4 doubles: Niwot’s Colin Forke and Alex Pedraza vs. Steamboat’s Matthew White and Aidan Gibbs.

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

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