Down but still not out | SteamboatToday.com

Down but still not out

Coach hopes Steamboat nets second

— After dropping four out of five matches in the semifinals of the state high school tennis championships in Pueblo on Friday, members of the Steamboat Springs High School tennis team were down but still not out.

They proved it in the afternoon by winning several key matches in the consolation brackets, which keeps Steamboat in the race for a top-three team finish.

Cheyenne Mountain is first with 70 points. Mullen is second with 40 points, and Kent Denver is third with 40 points. Steamboat is fourth, but with five teams still playing, the Sailors are in good shape to make a final-day run. Mullen will need to upset a few of Cheyenne Mountain’s top seeds to pick up points in the final round, leaving Steamboat and Kent Denver in good positions to move up in the standings.

“We are still in the hunt for second place, which says a lot about our players and this team,” coach John Aragon said. “It was a little rough this morning, but all of our players came back this afternoon and kept competing.”

Ryan McNamara hopes to become the second Sailor in a row to win a state title in the No. 3 singles division. McNamara, who lives in Vail and commutes to play for the Sailors, defeated Golden’s Matt Gallagher, 6-4, 6-2, in the semifinals. He was the only Steamboat player to survive semifinal rounds.

“I stayed consistent and was able to win the big points when I needed them,” McNamara said. “I never expected to be playing for a state title when the season started. I had no idea what the competition was like in high school.”

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McNamara said he tried to relax when he went up 5-1 on Gallagher in the second set. He stayed focused on his goal of making it to today’s finals.

“I got a little tight and nervous,” McNamara said. “I just kept telling myself to play my game,”

Steamboat’s No. 2 singles player, Ramsey Bernard, faced Cheyenne Mountain’s Dan Colten in a match that may have determined this year’s state champion. The two players battled for the advantage in the first set. In the end, Colten found the shots he needed to get past Bernard, 6-4. The second set was even tighter, but Colten won the match in the tiebreaker, 7-6 (9).

Bernard said it was the hardest match he’s played, and he expects Colten to beat Kent Denver’s Graham Ely in today’s finals.

“It came down to just a couple of points,” Coach Aragon said. “It was one of the best tennis matches of the tournament, and Ramsey left it all on the court, which is all I can ask for.”

Bernard returned to the court Friday afternoon and made quick work of Fountain Valley junior Andrew Nebel, 6-1, 6-4.

“I was way tired after the first match, both physically and mentally,” Bernard said. “I could have played better.”

Bernard will need to find some energy for today’s consolation match to determine third and fourth places. Bernard will face Pueblo East’s Royce Cappis. The two players met earlier in the season at the Pueblo South Tournament, when Bernard won, 7-6, 6-1.

“He’s a really good player,” Bernard said. “The first match went to a tiebreaker, and after I won it, I think he was kind of down. It should be a real good match, and I expect it will be close.”

But Steamboat’s singles players will not be the only ones that still have a chance to pick up points.

Steamboat’s No. 1 doubles team of Taylor Reed and Nick Ludolph rebounded from a 6-3, 7-5 loss to Mullen in the semifinals by beating Niwot’s Brian Brooks and Brian Kelly, 6-2, 6-3, in the playbacks. Reed and Ludolph will face Kent Denver’s Brad Morse and Moses Taylor in a match that could affect the team standings.

After losing in yesterday’s quarterfinals, Steamboat’s No. 2 doubles team of Jon Reese and Brian Aragon made a strong bid to keep playing Friday. The team defeated Fountain Valley’s Nathan MacIntyre and Friedrich Wittek in the first round of playbacks, 6-2, 6-1. They lost to Broomfield’s James Farver and John Lindbeck in a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 match.

Mullen interrupted Steam–boat’s No. 3 doubles team of Dylan Roberts and Jesse Schaller in the semifinal round, 6-4, 7-5. But Steamboat defeated Broomfield in the playbacks, 6-3, 6-3. The Sailors will make a bid for third place today against Niwot’s Eric Babuska and Josh Baer.

Steamboat’s No. 4 team of Scott Peterson and Brian Behrman survived an intense three-set match against Mullen’s Chase Lindquist and Roman Payan to earn the right to play for third.

The team lost to Cheyenne Mountain’s David Silver and John Adams, 6-1, 6-2, to open the day. But they rebounded with a 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-4 victory against the Mullen team.

“I think the turning point was in the third set when we were tied at four games apiece,” Peterson said. “Brian held serve, and it really boosted our confidence.”

The Steamboat team went on to close out the set, something it was not able to do in the second.

“I think we learned to put it away when you can, Behrman said. “That’s what we are going to try to do (today).”

The team hopes to beat Kent Denver for third place overall and improve the Sailors’ chances for a second-place team finish.

The final round of the state high school tennis championships begins at 9 a.m. today at Pueblo City Park. The title matches and matches for third and fourth place will be played simultaneously.

— To reach John F. Russell, call 871-4209 or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com