Bump, set, spike approach paying off for Steamboat tennis team’s volleyball pair | SteamboatToday.com

Bump, set, spike approach paying off for Steamboat tennis team’s volleyball pair

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — You would want to keep track of whether or not you can let the ball bounce and definitely you wouldn't want to take a racket the wrong place, but generally speaking the concepts are similar enough in volleyball and tennis.

One net.

Two sides.

Hit it hard, preferably where the opponent isn't, and be prepared if the ball comes back.

"Height also helps," Steamboat Springs High School senior Este Wilkinson said Thursday after helping the Steamboat Springs High School girls tennis team to a dominating win at home against Basalt.

Wilkinson and her partner, junior Maddie Heydon, spend much of their season focused on volleyball and were two of the top players last fall for the high school's volleyball team. Thursday, they took care of business on the tennis court as the Sailors won all six contested matches. Mae Thorp won at No. 1 singles, 6-0, 6-0; Annika Fahrner at No. 3 singles 6-1, 6-3; Lauren Ehrlich and Morgan Sauerbrey at No. 1 doubles 6-1, 6-0; Amy Speer and Amanda Walker at No. 2 doubles, 6-0, 6-1; Heydon and Wilkinson at No. 3 doubles 6-0, 6-0; and Maria Koop and Christina Hathaway 6-0, 6-0. Lily Fox, Steamboat's No. 2 singles player, then capped the day off winning an exhibition match, 8-2.

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It was the kind of day coach Kristyn Wykert hoped her players would use to refine some of the skills they'd been working on in practice. With just two competitions remaining before the regional tournament, set for early May, this is the time.

"I wanted them to try something we've been working on in practice. If they struggled there, matches like this are great for trying those things," she said.

For Heydon and Wilkinson, tennis is the side gig. They both play varsity volleyball in the fall and accounted for nearly 200 kills and 100 blocks between them. They also play club volleyball through the winter and into the early part of tennis season.

They said they enjoy tennis as a break and after playing mostly junior varsity in previous seasons, they're both fixtures in the varsity lineup this season, playing together on a doubles team.

"They have a great chemistry and really work well together with nonverbal communication," Wykert said. "That's huge. That's why they're such a good team."

They've found it's a pretty natural transition between the sports.

"The serve is somewhat the same and moving, seeing the court and placing the ball, it's all the same as volleyball," Heydon said.

And, physically, that height is a big advantage. Heydon's 6-feet-0 and Wilkinson 5-10.

"It's pretty huge, especially when high volleys come up to the net, you can reach up and slam them, which other people might not be able to do," Wilkinson said. "When you swing overhead, it's just like hitting a volleyball."

Now they're hoping that experience and their teamwork can help them get to the state tournament. They'll have just a few more chances to refine their game, this weekend with a swing down the Front Range, Friday at Ralston Valley and Saturday at John F. Kennedy High School.

Then they'll play their final regular-season matches Thursday on the road against Fruita Monument and Grand Junction. The regional tournament awaits right after the school's spring break, starting May 3, and the top two teams from each bracket there will advance to the state championship, May 10 to 12 in Greeley.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9.