Steamboat tennis advances 3 to state semifinals
May 12, 2011
Pueblo — They fell behind early in the decisive third-set tiebreaker and for seemingly the hundredth time, the friends, family and teammates of Ali Diehl and Lauren Siegel privately began to resign themselves to a defeat.
The pair, Steamboat's No. 1 doubles team, playing Thursday on the opening day of the three-day Class 4A state tennis tournament in Pueblo, had faced deficits throughout their second-round match, holes no team recovers from.
They were down 4-1 in the second set and, after tying it at 6, again in a tiebreaker. They trailed 4-0 then 5-2 in the third set after miraculously recovering from each of those first two holes.
"Oh yeah, we faced match points," Diehl said, recounting the drama. "I don't even remember how many times."
But they came back from all those, and they overcame a two-point margin in the third-set tiebreaker, as well, shocking everyone — even, admittedly, themselves — with a dramatic victory that pushed them into Friday's semifinal round at the state tournament.
They'll play there with two other Steamboat entries.
"They were down, 5-2, in that third set, and I said, 'Well, do you girls believe you can do this?' They didn't say anything at first, then I asked again, and they gave me a little nod," Steamboat coach John Aragon said.
"I had to put all doubt out of my mind," Siegel said. "We had to take it point by point, game by game."
Siegel and Diehl played the day's most heart-stopping match, beating Abby Rosenblum and Elsa Woolley, of Colorado Academy, 4-6, 7-6(7), 7-6(4), but they were far from alone in pushing fans to the edge of their seats. Steamboat fought in bitterly close matches throughout the first two rounds of the tournament.
The No. 3 doubles team of Rachel Grubbs and Alli Lowrie survived a 7-5, 3-6, 6-4 match against Niwot's Dina Kim and Meagan Londa to advance from the second round. No. 3 singles player Claire Parsons, meanwhile, dominated her second-round match, beating Dayna DeMeritte, of Broomfield, 6-2, 6-2. All earned tickets to Friday's semifinals.
"What this team might lack in experience or tournament play, they make up for in heart," Aragon said. "They're coachable kids. You can tell them something, and they'll go out and get it done."
All three now are one step from Saturday's state championship finals, playing at 9 a.m. Friday. Diehl and Siegel will play a pair from Kent Denver, and Grubbs and Lowrie will face a team from Mullen.
"Honestly, I feel like if we can win (Thursday), we can beat Mullen, too," Lowrie said. "We have to go point-by-point and keep our heads in it."
Parsons will face Cheyenne Mountain's Kristen Sullivan.
"I'm going to have a tough opponent. I'm going to go in, try hard and play with a lot of consistency," said Parsons, who'd lost on two previous trips to the second round. "I'm definitely nervous."
Two other Steamboat pairs still can get back in on the action via the consolation bracket. Kaitie Breisch and Ellie Bender, at No. 2 doubles, cruised in their first-round match, winning, 6-0, 6-0, but struggled in the second, falling, 6-3, 6-2, against a Cheyenne Mountain squad. The No. 4 doubles team of Summer Smalley and Maria Hillenbrand laid early claim to the match of the day with a thrilled 1-6, 7-6(3) 6-4 first-round win against Jackie Hernandez and Heather Burke, of Pueblo County. They lost in the second-round, however, falling to Kelsey Roseveare and Samantha Sheets, of Thompson Valley, 6-1, 6-3.
If the teams that beat Steamboat's doubles squads win and advance to the finals, the Steamboat teams re-enter the draw and can finish as high as third.
The Sailors top two singles entries won't have that opportunity after the players who beat them lost in the second round. Christi Valicenti fell to Lauren Renjard, of Cheyenne Mountain, 6-1, 6-4, at No. 1 singles, and Rachelle Steele-Cerone lost to Genevieve Tarlton, of Regis Jesuit, 6-3, 6-1.
"Christi, the way she's been playing, I know she can beat that girl. She just wasn't on her A-game," Aragon said. "Rachelle, she had a tough match, and she's not going to get a chance to be back in. It's too bad. She's a great kid and an awesome tennis player."
— To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com