A mixed bag for GJ, Fruita first timers at state tennis tourney
DENVER — The courts at the Gates Tennis Center can be intimidating for those stepping on them for the first time.
Surrounded by high-rise apartment buildings in each direction, players are exposed to 20 courts, 176 players and 26 different high school teams all fighting to be called the best tennis players in the state.
Thursday at the first day of the 5A state tennis tournament, 10 of the 19 Grand Valley players got their first taste of state competition.
“It was nerve-racking at first with everyone watching,” Fruita Monument No. 3 doubles player Lauren Bleil said. “Watching (Lindsey) Henke’s match, it was like the girls here are insane, but once we got out there it was just tennis.”
Bleil and her partner, Channing Hayward, went three sets but ended up falling to Fairview’s Carolyn Brent and Megan Thayer 6-3, 1-6, 6-1.
“It’s been so awesome to be at state,” Bleil said. “I wish I could go play another match right now.”
Henke also played a tough three-set match in her first appearance at state, losing 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 to Arapahoe’s Sarah Ray.
Fruita Monument coach Clint Davis was proud of the way Henke battled with Ray.
“Lindsey played her heart out,” Davis said. “She hasn’t played the amount of tennis as half of these girls, but her learning curve has been amazing.”
Fruita also suffered a loss at No. 3 singles as Janine Kirtland fell to Ponderosa’s Kaley
Carmichael 6-3, 6-2. The Wildcats also lost at No. 2 and No. 4 doubles. Fruita now will wait for possible playback matches.
Grand Junction’s first-time participants fared better as Tigers’ No. 3 doubles player Emmie Madison played well on her way into today’s semifinal match against Ralston Valley’s Kristin
Snyder and Solana Archuleta.
Madison and partner Alex Proietti defeated Grandview’s Alina Barthle and Samantha Kobbe 6-1, 4-6, 6-1, then took down Rocky Mountain’s Caitlin Keller and Jenna Jorgenson 6-3, 6-4.
Proietti played in the state tournament last year in the No. 4 doubles spot, and helped to calm her partner’s nervousness.
“I told her to not let nerves get into it,” Proietti said. “We have to play our best, and play the ball, not the opponent.”
One of the seasoned veterans of the state tournament is Tigers’ No. 2 singles player Jenny Jessup. The Grand Junction senior is in her fourth tournament, and has experienced everything from a state title (No. 3 doubles in 2006) to a first-round loss with no playbacks (No. 2 singles in 2008).
Jessup had a strong first day for the Tigers, defeating Maddie Wiebe of Chatfield 6-0,6-2, and Kelsi Clemmer of Ralston Valley 6-3, 6-2 to set up a semifinal match with Ponderosa’s Brittney Ricci.
Even in her fourth tournament, Jessup said nerves play a big role in performance.
“You have nerves no matter what,” Jessup said. “But experience helps you calm your nerves and figure how to control it.”
Jessup was the lone Tigers single player to make it out of the first round as No. 1 singles Charlotte Mooney lost to Jacqueline Palmucci of Cherokee Trail 6-1, 6-1. No. 3 singles player Kirsten Schulte lost to Saryn Mooney of Arapahoe 7-6, 6-2.
Aside from Proietti and Madison, the No. 1 doubles team of Alyssa Behrens and Maddie Hayduk also made it to today’s semifinals.
The Tigers had the opportunity to get two more doubles teams in but lost in tough quarterfinal matchups. The No. 2 doubles team of Liz Heaps and Sammy Weinberg lost to Doherty’s Linda Lolli and Kendra Peterson, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6.
“We knew they would be good but we relaxed after the first (set) and they attacked,” Heaps said. “This match was heartbreaking.”
The Tiger’s No. 4 doubles team of Kylie Pond and Madison Gurley also lost in three sets, falling to Heritage’s Madeleine Mathis and Ashley Blaylock 4-6,6-4,6-2.
“We battled all the way though every match,” Grand Junction coach Carol Elliott said. “I am proud of the girls because they showed up today.”
Landing every doubles team in the quarterfinals puts the Tigers in third place with eight points.
Cherry Creek is in first with 13 points and Ponderosa is in second with 12 points.
Today’s matches begin at 9 a.m. with playback matches following all the championship bracket matches.