African adventure

Trip to state last for GJ's Fritzler, who will forgo final tennis season to help poor in Uganda

Grand Junction’s Carsyn Fritzler will play in her first and last state tournament this weekend. The junior will not play next year, instead going to Uganda to help provide economic opportunities to people in Jinja.

Between sips of coffee recently with her mother, Carsyn Fritzler decided she would go to Africa.

The Grand Junction High junior will graduate early — this December — and from February through April will live in Jinja, Uganda.

At a time she’d normally be playing her senior season of tennis, she’ll be offering jobs and teaching English and literacy classes to the locals, working alongside employees and volunteers of Light Gives Heat, a local organization that provides economic opportunities to the underprivileged people of Jinja.

And so, at the Class 5A state high school tennis championship Thursday through Saturday at Gates Tennis Center, Fritzler likely will be different from the many competitors.

Tennis excites her, but the thought of heading to Africa sends a spark through her eyes.

“Everything is falling into place,” Fritzler said, “like it was meant to be.”

The Grand Junction High School No. 3 doubles player, who qualified for state with partner Natalie Sufka, will not play tennis her senior season next year.

She’ll be in Jinja, along Lake Victoria, facing a much different opponent — poverty.

Fritzler’s decision to go to Africa started with the coffee meeting. Her mother, Dianna Fritzler, was already planning to go.

“She said, ‘You should come with me to Africa,’ ‘’ Carsyn said. “I said, ‘OK.’

“So this is my last tennis season.”

Without considering how, she simply decided to go. Carsyn will be staying in a home with other Light Gives Heat staff members.

“It’s pretty amazing to see,” Light Gives Heat founder Dave Hansow said. “Our message has always been sitting right along with that — real normal people from places like Grand Junction, even young people, get this incredible chance at doing a big, beautiful, crazy thing like this.”

One its website,, there is a “Vote Daily” link that can be clicked on to vote for Light Gives Heat as a favorite charity. Cultivate Wines, out of Los Angeles, is awarding $100,000 to non-profit organizations. First place wins $50,000 and the next five places win $10,000.

“We’re in second place right now,” Hansow said.

Sufka and Fritzler are hoping they’ll place first as well this weekend. They are 10-1 this season. It’s the last chance for the duo to make a run at state.

“It’s kind of sad,” Sufka said about Fritzler not returning for her senior season. “We were having such a good season.”

They will open in the first round Thursday against Doherty’s Shay Lyons and Katie Spaulding.

Grand Junction, the Southwestern League champion, also is sending Kylie Pond at No. 1 singles, Nicky Arja at No. 2 singles and Anne Hughes at No. 3 singles.

Pond drew Rocky Mountain’s Cara Cromwell in the first round.

Also at No. 1 singles, Central’s Aimee Basinski, a two-time Class 5A regional champion, faces Eaglecrest’s Renee Christopher.

Central’s Katie Murphy plays Denver East’s Natalia Dellavalle at No. 3 singles.

In another No. 2 singles first round matchup, Fruita Monument’s Meredith Soychak faces Rhiannon Johnson of Ponderosa.

In Class 4A, Cedaredge’s No. 4 doubles team of Sierra McHugh and Katie O’Hern qualified and plays Longmont’s Rebeka Cowley and Ashley Wright in the first round at City Park in Pueblo.


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