Weinberg, GJ’s top doubles team fall at 5A state championships
DENVER — Spencer Weinberg is the type of tennis player who rarely is caught on his heels.
Yet Weinberg found himself reeling in unfamiliar territory Saturday morning during the Class 5A No. 1 singles state championship match against Highlands Ranch’s Hayden Sabatka.
As Sabatka bombarded Weinberg with a barrage of high-caliber shots, Weinberg often was left frozen in place. On one occasion, a blistering ace served by Sabatka elicited a wide-eyed stare of disbelief from Weinberg.
The end result was a 6-1, 6-1 victory by Sabatka that ended Weinberg’s dream of a repeat No. 1 singles championship. Despite a disappointing final day for the Tigers — the top doubles team of Jacob Filutze and Caleb Gartner also lost its state championship match — Grand Junction still finished in third place with 42 points.
That effort was the best finish for the Tigers since they recorded 35 points to finish second in 2006. Cherry Creek won the tournament with 80 points, followed by Fairview with 71.
“You come in knowing it is going to be tough, because there are only a few that are here the last day and the competition is going to be tough,” Grand Junction coach Carol Elliott said.
“I’m not really disappointed with any of our kids. They all played hard. They all competed. And that’s what you want. You don’t want anyone to go out there and not play well, and each one of our kids played well.”
Weinberg was overwhelmed by Sabatka, a junior who finished third last year but did not encounter Weinberg during the state tournament. Sabatka kept Weinberg scrambling from sideline to sideline and also delivered a number of un-returnable winners while aggressively charging the net.
“You can’t let (Sabatka) get into a rhythm, he’s too deadly,” Weinberg said. “I knew it and tried to keep the ball deep, but he played great. He just took me out of my game, basically. Some of those balls, I didn’t even have time to get there. It was hard for me to match that. Some of the shots he hit were incredible.
“We did what we wanted and accomplished a lot. We won some matches and had another team in the finals. Last year, I got the good side of the end of it. This year, I got the bad side.”
Filutze and Gartner saw their hopes for a state title end with a 6-2, 6-4 loss to Cherry Creek’s Jack Greene and Spencer Anderson.
The Tigers were unable to pad the 42-point total they collected through the tournament’s second day after their No. 2 doubles team and No. 3 doubles team faltered in third-place matches.
The No. 2 tandem of Max Proietti and Daniel Ness lost a wild 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 match to Fairview’s Dakota Muench and Connor Corrigan. Grand Junction’s No. 3 duo of Gabe Campos and Jeff Hansen lost 6-4, 6-2 to the Regis Jesuit team of Case Anderson and Nate Root.
Yet those setbacks failed to dull a well-earned sense of accomplishment for the Tigers. And given that Filutze, Gartner, Weinberg, and No. 3 singles player Tate Hegstrom all are juniors, Grand Junction already is expecting to turn in a similar effort next year.
“We’re going to have a lot coming back and we’re going to have a few coming up at the freshman level that are going to help us also next year,” Elliott said.
“We’re going to have another strong team. We’re going to try and play a lot more. We play a lot in the summer, but we’re going to try and play in the winter and spring to try and get them excited for next year. It will be a new year and we’ll have a lot back, so it should be fun.”