Tigers place 6 in Class 5A state tennis semis
DENVER — Luke Ledebur might be forced to take a pair of sore wrists and a chronic case of wobbly knees into the Class 5A boys tennis state semifinals this morning.
For Ledebur, it was a well-earned assortment of aches and pains.
The senior from Grand Junction High School highlighted a superb all-around effort by the Tigers on Thursday, advancing through the first two rounds of the No. 2 singles bracket with a pair of thrilling victories in third-set tiebreakers.
Grand Junction boasts entrants in six of the seven semifinal brackets and is in the hunt for the team state championship when the tournament resumes this morning at the Gates Tennis Center.
Ledebur joins defending No. 1 singles champion Spencer Weinberg in the semifinals after posting a 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (7-2) victory against Rocky Mountain’s Heitor Adeas in the first round and bouncing back with a 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7-2) quarterfinal victory against Denver East’s Kyle Schuster.
“The day is over. I’m done with my matches and I’ll just need to get a good night’s sleep to be ready for (today),” Ledebur said. “Both matches today, they were tough.”
Even more impressive than the extended gritty effort turned in by Ledebur was the fact he rallied from significant deficits in each match.
After splitting the first two sets against Adeas, Ledebur fell behind 5-0 in the third set before rallying for a 7-2 win in the tiebreaker. Ledebur was even more impressive against Schuster, who defeated the Tigers’ senior twice during the regular season.
Ledebur dropped the first set and was pushed to the brink in the second and third sets as well. Undaunted, Ledebur rallied from a 3-1 hole in the second set and a 2-0 deficit in the third before posting another 7-2 decision in the tiebreaker.
“My second match against Kyle, I haven’t beaten him all year,” said Ledebur, who will face Cherry Creek’s Zach Fryer in the No. 2 singles semifinals. “He’s real tough because he hits the ball real hard. My wrists were getting sore.
“But I’ve been with him every time, and I kept saying, ‘Hey, I’ll get him one of these times.’ I just had to stay mentally tough, keep hanging in there, and find a way to win, even though it was a tough day.”
Ledebur’s effort punctuated a stellar opening day for Grand Junction, which advanced all four doubles teams into the semifinals in addition to Weinberg and Ledebur. No. 3 singles player Tate Hegstrom was the only slot left out of the Tigers’ semifinal party after losing to Boulder’s Miguel Sanchez in the first round.
Grand Junction finished the first day in third place with 18 points, one behind Cherry Creek and three behind first-place Fairview.
“The great thing about our team is that we’re so supportive of each other,” Grand Junction coach Carol Elliott said. “It’s not going to take one person — it’s going to take 11 players out there to accomplish what we need to accomplish. For Luke to go out there and battle in that first match, and then beat this kid he hasn’t beaten all year in his second match, it’s a tribute not only to him and his effort, but everybody cheering him on.”
Weinberg encountered little resistance taking the first steps toward defending his No. 1 singles crown, opening the tournament with a 6-0,6-0 win against Fossil Ridge’s Tanner Trace before dispatching Fairview’s Eli Winegardner 6-1, 6-1.
Weinberg plays Boulder senior Jaron Belcher in the semifinals.
“I just feel like I’ve worked so hard throughout the season, and even in the summer and preseason, and I feel like everything is a bonus now,” Weinberg said. “Hopefully my hard work will pay off. You have to stay mentally focused out here because there are a lot of distractions.”
Bryan Mehall of Aspen was the only Western Slope player to advance to the semifinal round in Pueblo.
Mehall had a tough first-round match at No. 1 singles, holding off Kellen Kaltenbacher of Air Academy 6-4, 6-3, but then breezed past Luke Lorenz of Discovery Canyon 6-1, 6-1 in the quarterfinals.
He faces Harrison Lang of Niwot in the semifinals.
Steamboat Springs’ Jamey Swiggart defeated Jesse Ruder-Hook of Colorado Academy 6-3, 6-2 in the first round at No. 1, but then lost to Stephen Moore of Cheyenne Mountain 6-3, 7-6 in the quarters.
Luke Farney of Steamboat won his first-round match at No. 2 singles, but then lost in the quarters, the same fate of teammate Colin Green and Montrose’s Joe Nunez at No. 3 and Steamboat’s No. 1 and No. 3 doubles teams.