Weinberg, Tigers focused on state tennis
Spencer Weinberg proved he could handle the challenge of being the player to beat.
Now, the Grand Junction High School junior is ready to prove he can win the Class 5A No. 1 singles state title for a second consecutive year.
“I’ve been working with coach (Carol) Elliott a lot on staying focused,” Weinberg said. “It’s easy to get distracted. I was telling my parents I haven’t accomplished anything yet this year. Everything that happened last year is gone. I’ve got to stay strong and keep working hard.”
The Class 5A State Championships begin at 9 a.m. Thursday at Gates Tennis Center in Denver.
Weinberg (17-1) cruised through the season with all his wins in straight sets. His lone loss came to a Class 4A player in the Western Slope Invitational who is expected to compete for a state title as well.
“I have to stay loose,” Weinberg said. “Luke (Ledebur) and I rallied until 10 (p.m.) at the bubble (Thursday night). We’re definitely aware of the players on the (Front Range).”
He could draw Eli Winegardner of Fairview in the quarterfinals. The two missed facing each other in the Western Slope Invitational by one round earlier this year.
Highlands Ranch’s Hayden Sabatka, who took third at No. 1 singles last year, is on the other half of the bracket.
“Spencer is so mentally tough,” Grand Junction coach Carol Elliott said. “You don’t see Spencer down very often because of his strong mental game. He’s just so solid. He doesn’t show any cards, or any emotion. He gets pumped up, but stays in the moment. You can never count him out.”
That can be said for the rest of the Tigers, who qualified the entire team and believe they can win their first-ever team state title.
“I think (a team state title) attainable,“Elliott said.
“Our kids have to go over there with a lot of confidence in their game, believe in themselves and each other,” Elliott said. “Some things have to happen with some of the other teams losing, but that’s always the case.
“I really do think we have a chance. Our goal has been all season to be in the top two. We have the potential in singles as well as in doubles. We’ll have to handle some adversity. We’re going to have to battle and grind.”
Grand Junction took second place in 2006 behind Jordan Bridge’s state title at No. 1 singles. The Tigers had all three singles players place in the top four, but not one doubles team place.
All but one Grand Junction player returns from last season after placing fifth at state behind Weinberg’s state title at No. 1 singles. Parker Hegstrom took third at No. 3 singles and Jeff Hansen and Matthew Prinster took fourth at No. 4 doubles.
No. 2 singles player Luke Ledebur (15-3) nearly made the semifinals last year at the same position and No. 3 singles player Tate Hegstrom (13-5) has improved after losing four of his first nine matches.
Grand Junction’s No. 1 doubles team of Caleb Gartner and Jacob Filutze (17-0) have rolled with little resistance.
The Tigers duo handled some tough competition this season with straight set victories over Denver East and Regis. They were pushed to a third set three times, including by Legend in the regional finals last week, but rallied from a set down to win 6-7, 6-1, 6-1.
The No. 2 team of Daniel Ness and Max Proietti (15-2) have won 10 consecutive matches in straight sets. The No. 3 duo of Gabe Campos and Jeff Hansen (15-2) are seniors familiar with the state tournament and Matt Prinster brings experience to the No. 4 doubles position with Aaron Gossage (15-2).
Fruita Monument’s No. 2 doubles team of Matt Scofield and Nick Rutan and No. 3 duo of freshmen Randy Hurshman and Scott Nolan are looking forward to their first experience playing in state to build on for next year.