Streak on the line as Sailors chase No. 12 | SteamboatToday.com

Streak on the line as Sailors chase No. 12

Steamboat girls haven't lost regional title since 2004

Steamboat Springs girls tennis coach John Aragon talks to his squad during practice Tuesday. The team begins play in the regional tennis tournament Thursday, hoping to win that event for the 12th-consecutive year.

— There were initially only seven players out for the Steamboat Springs High School girls tennis team in 2005.

The squad was still new to the school, only several years old, but the small numbers didn't so much reflect of a lack of interest as did a big senior class that had graduated the year before.

Still, the team needed players, and coach John Aragon and the girls on the team set out to get them, recruiting their way, eventually, to a full 11-player varsity roster.

"We got some good athletes and taught them how to keep the ball in play," Aragon said. "They didn't have winner shots or big shots. It was all about hustle and making the other person miss."

That was the start, Aragon said Wednesday, the first year the Steamboat girls team won a regional championship.

It hasn't lost since, winning the next 10.

Recommended Stories For You

It was often close in those early days, and it's been close plenty of times since.

Since the team really started rolling, however, there have been few seasons posing as potent a threat to end the streak as this one.

The Sailors begin play in the regional tournament Thursday, and if they're to push their streak to 12 years, they'll need to dig deep.

"I think there's a very good possibility we can beat them all if we play like I know we can," said senior Surina Techarukpong, playing with Emmie Thompson on the No. 2 doubles team.

Two things happened this year to help build drama for regionals.

First, sisters Shae and Tatum Burger missed the season to train at a tennis academy in California. Tatum won the No. 1 singles state championship in 2015 as a freshman, going through the season undefeated in Class 4A's toughest bracket.

Second, senior Maddie Labor, who took ownership of that No. 1 singles spot, tore her anterior cruciate ligament in April.

No. 1 singles is the most important of the seven divisions. Teams field No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 singles players, then No. 1 through No. 4 doubles teams. Each step down is worth slightly fewer points, so a No. 1 singles win ends up being worth considerably more than a No. 4 doubles win.

Aragon was reluctant to bump every player up a slot so late in the season, so he moved junior varsity player Amanda Walker in to face the top players in the region, a tough spot for the young athlete. Considering the way Colorado high school tennis tournaments are scored, the Sailors are likely giving up major points, which could put their regional run in serious danger.

"It's going to be tough this year," said senior Sabina Berend, who plays with classmate Sydney Boyd on the No. 1 doubles team. "We're all really positive, though. So I think we got it."

"If we all focus and keep our heads in the game, we can do it," Boyd added.

Steamboat's players have, through the years, embraced being the big dogs in the region.

Players and fans from the other teams gather when a Steamboat girl is in a tight match and cheer for the opponent the same way people tune in to root against the New York Yankees, Alabama or the New England Patriots.

"It means a sense of pride," said Labor, only four days removed from surgery on her knee.

Even though she won't play, she plans to travel with the team and offer as much support as possible. She can't help defend the regionals streak on the court this year but is plenty familiar with the ups and downs of bearing the burden.

"It's awesome to have that, and it's awesome when people don't want you to win, because it makes you want it more," she said. "You walk with your head held higher and your chest out more when you walk on those courts."

This could be the year, Aragon conceded.

Glenwood Springs, Montrose and Vail Mountain will bring strong teams to regionals, and all three have great chances to win.

The Sailors, however, are intent on finding a way to defy them one more time and win No. 12.

"We're in the same situation we were when we won our first one," Aragon said. "We were underdogs then. We didn't have any experienced players, and it was all about will and grit, getting out there and keeping that ball on the court and fighting for every point.

"I firmly believe if it means a lot to this group, if they go out and play every point like it's match point, they can come in and win it."

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

Steamboat girls tennis regionals lineup

No. 1 singles Amanda Walker

No. 2 singles Maddie Thompson

No. 3 singles Lily Fox

No. 1 doubles Sydney Boyd and Sabina Berend

No. 2 doubles Surina Techarukpong and Emmie Thompson

No. 3 doubles Jordyn Hetrick and Natalie Simon

No. 4 doubles Fena Metzler and Anna Allsberry