Steamboat Springs High School tennis team readies for regional tournament |

Steamboat Springs High School tennis team readies for regional tournament

Luke Graham

Steamboat Springs senior Gabri Erspamer works on his serve during practice Wednesday afternoon at the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs. The high school boys team will leave for Grand Junction on Thursday for the regional tennis tournament.

— Well, this is a different feel.

For the first time in years, the Steamboat Springs High School boys team is the one doing the chasing.

Admittedly so, it's been a relatively off year. The Sailors haven't dominated like they have in the past and enter Friday and Saturday's regional tournament at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction as an underdog.

Aspen — a team that beat Steamboat, 4-3, earlier this year — enters as the favorite to unseat the Sailors' 14-year run as regional champion.

"This is probably the most important thing right now," said No. 2 singles player Gabri Erspamer.

It should set up for some quality drama.

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In addition to Aspen and Steamboat, Cedaredge, Durango, Hotchkiss, Montezuma-Cortez and Montrose will make up the field. The top two players at each spot advance to the state tournament the following week in Pueblo.

But the drama starts with Aspen and Steamboat, a tennis rivalry dominated in recent years by the Sailors.

In mid-September, however, the Skiers did something they hadn't in awhile. Aspen picked up a 4-3 win at the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs. The Skiers picked up wins at No. 2 singles and Nos. 2 , 3 and 4 doubles.

Winning regionals is "everyone's goal, clearly," said Ben Wharton, who along with Corbin Diehl will compete at No. 1 doubles. "That's been a goal the entire season to get a win at regionals and continue the streak. That's been what we've been playing for."

The key, as always, is getting through the first day of competition with enough players still in the hunt to score points.

Although Aspen won the match earlier this season, Steamboat's team sounded confident about the weekend.

"Our goal is to always win regionals," coach Don Toy said. "We'll take (Aspen) down. They are already planning on beating us and ending the streak. I think our team is ready to take that challenge. That's what we want is a challenge."

Considering the drama surrounding the Tennis Center this week, regionals will be a good respite. Steamboat, despite the earlier loss to Aspen, still has the luster of 14 straight regional titles.

"Especially after this week it would be right up there," Toy said. "I think this could be one of the more special ones."

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email

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