The net result
Participation decrease leads to odd matchups at junior tennis tourney
Wearing pink T-shirts with the words “too hot to warm up” splashed across the front, plus bright-blue high socks and matching headbands, Donovan Marshall and Cal Hegstrom make an odd doubles pairing.
Even stranger, the duo felt the full brunt of a reduced tournament field at the Community Hospital Junior Tennis Tournament by facing a significantly older pairing during an opening-round match at the Elliott Tennis Center in the boys U16 bracket.
Tournament participation dropped nearly 60 percent, 105 to 44, from last year to this year, according to Ron Elliott, director of Mesa County Tennis.
That left Hegstrom, 11, and Marshall, 13, facing Grand Junction High School junior varsity tennis players Sam Shaver and Adam Dow, both 15 years old.
Although the 4-foot-9 Hegstrom carefully placed shots, the 6-foot-7 Shaver ripped high-speed serves and played from an angle the youngsters hadn’t seen in their normal age bracket.
Hegstrom and Marshall stole some points and the first set with crafty shots and benefitted from service errors, but they eventually fell to their older opponents 3-6, 6-4. 10-4.
“It’s hard playing a tall kid because they just hit everything down, and I usually have really good volleys,” Hegstrom said. “It’s fun, though. We were really happy that we got a set.”
After the first set, Shaver and Dow cleaned up their service errors. Even with their high school coach, Carol Elliott, in attendance, Dow said one of the best parts of youth tournaments is the opportunity to provide self-coaching.
“Usually when you’re playing high school tennis you get coaching with everything you do,” Dow said. “You’re coaching yourself. You’re looking for inconsistencies and have to be more aware about how your opponent is playing.”
The drop in tournament participation that affected the boys doubles also affected the girls U18 singles bracket, where 13-year-old Sarah Fleming will face 15-year-old Carolena Campos in the championship match.
Ron Elliot said the attendance drop stems from a number of factors.
“Country Jam is going on, and Boulder is hosting a tennis tournament that took a good portion of our kids,” Elliott said. “Most of our younger kids play baseball, and our 12- and 14-year-olds didn’t make it because of a baseball tournament. It’s a scheduling problem.” Elliott added the drop in participation created two positives. Players who normally may not compete for tournament trophies have a chance to finish atop brackets, and younger players get to face older, tougher competition.
“It really benefits kids like Adam Dow and Sam Shaver because they play JV and perform well during the fall season,” he said, “and now they get a chance to win a tournament in the spring when they normally wouldn’t get that chance.
“It also gives the younger kids a chance to see a different pace of the ball.”
Today will feature the championship matches of each age bracket. Games begin at 9 a.m. and continue every hour until noon. Play resumes at 6 p.m. for the final matches of the tournament.