Chomko’s challenge: Mesa State senior enjoying task of playing No. 1 singles
Playing No. 1 singles is a tricky proposition.
Yes, there’s the honor of being the top player on your team, but then again, in Division II tennis, the chances of playing someone from a foreign country is pretty good. Many of those foreign players are older and more experienced than a kid from Colorado.
That’s what Jordan Chomko faces week after week for the Mesa State College men’s tennis team, but the senior likes that challenge.
“It’s definitely a unique atmosphere playing one (singles),” the senior from Littleton said. “You see some interesting players. You have to go into every match with the mindset that it’s going to be a battle. I think I’m more physically prepared (than last season). I’m in better shape, but nothing comes easy.”
Case in point: Chomko’s most recent matches. After going 3-1 to open the spring season, he faced Bo Zaputovic of Midwestern (Texas) State on Thursday. Zaputovic, a 6-foot-4 junior, is from Tivat, Montenegro, although he went to high school in Marysville, Kan.
“In those tough matches, you have to stay right there and maybe they’ll slip up and give you a couple of points, and that’s what you need,” Chomko said.
Chomko lost in a third-set tie-breaker, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7-4). Three days later, the Mavericks played Division I Northern Colorado, and Chomko faced Calix Van Lier, a sophomore from Longmont. The Mavericks defeated the Bears 5-4, but Chomko lost his match 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 (7-1) to even his spring record at 3-3.
“You just have to go in with the mentality that it’s another match,” he said of playing tough opponents day in and day out. “You can’t worry about it. You just have to play the ball and really, that’s all you can do.
“I learned that my freshman year. You have those moments where maybe it intimidated you but you’ve just got to go, ‘Eh, what are you gonna do about it?’ ‘’
The Mesa State men’s team has grown up together the past few years, and the experience has paid off with a No. 2 Central Region ranking as the Mavericks head back out on the road this weekend. Mesa — weather permitting, of course — plays Minnesota State-Mankato, Nebraska-Omaha, Haskings (Neb.) College and Nebraska-Kearney.
As usual, home matches are few and far between for Mesa State — the Mavericks have two home duals in April. Their first home match, April 9, is against Western New Mexico, ranked No. 1 in the Central Region. A win against the Mustangs could go a long way toward the Mavs’ regional hopes.
“We know the competition,” Chomko said. “We’ve seen Mankato and all of the RMAC schools. It definitely helps being mentally prepared for those matches. You know there won’t be any surprises; you know what’s coming.
“It would be nice to host regionals. That would be a great accomplishment.”
The weather is becoming less and less an issue for the Mavericks (13-8, 9-4 RMAC), who are on an eight-game winning streak.
Now if they could get the flu bug to move on, they’d be in good shape.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” coach Chris Hanks said. “I’m going through my roster today and checking off everybody who’s had it and see who hasn’t gotten it yet that we might run into problems with as we move forward.”
A handful of players missed at least one game last week because of the flu and it seems a new player calls in sick every day. Pitcher Kyle Davis, who missed his start last week because of the flu, will be back in the rotation.
So, too, should be Garrett Carpenter, who showed no ill effects of his first start in six weeks because of a tender elbow.
The bullpen had an outstanding weekend against Regis last week and Hanks said Rex Clemons, a freshman from Fruita Monument, could be called out of the bullpen this week at CSU-Pueblo (12-10, 7-3) for his first college game action.
“He could be a factor down the stretch,” Hanks said. “He’s close. He wants to pitch, he’s ready to go. I haven’t pulled the trigger yet but the last couple of weeks (in practice) Rex has really held his own against anybody. He’s been very effective. I want to get him in this weekend in some form or fashion. He’s confident, he’s got a little swagger on the mound and he believes in himself.”
Hanks is still trying to decide on starters at second and third. Joe Schmidtbauer and Ken Evanson have split time at third and Hanks has looked at Colton Little, Erik Nordine and Peter Arakawa at second.
“I told the coaches the other day that in a couple of weeks I may have to go to those positions and say ‘You’re the guy and you’re the guy and the rest of you are backups.’
“Or it may be a deal where I’m going to scratch where it itches and all of them need to be ready to play every day.”
Coach Kris Mort hasn’t decided on her top nine, either, but she’s getting closer simply because the Mavericks (6-8, 4-8 RMAC) were able to play a full series last weekend.
If they can get four games in this weekend at Regis (4-18, 1-15), she’ll feel a lot better.
“Some of them have been nervous, not sure they’re ready to handle this,” Mort said. “They’re overwhelmed. We’ve got young kids at pivotal positions, half of the squad. You can’t make kids grow any faster than they’re able.”
A mixture of youth and injuries has had her shuffling the lineup — starting third baseman Lauren Cross is out for the season with an ankle injury and her backup, freshman Whitney Bailey, fouled a ball hard off the inside of an ankle last week, causing her to miss the final two games of the series against Chadron State.
The young players aren’t pressing quite as much as they were early in the season and the pitchers came around last week. More than anything, the Mavericks just need game time.
“It’s hard to get the feel of you’ve got things rolling until you’ve had an opportunity to get out there consistently as much as you’re practicing, and not feel like practice is 10-to-1 (ratio),” Mort said. “We’re still looking for the top nine to shake out and we’ve had some movement (in the lineup) that isn’t ideal for this date, but it is for 12, 14 games.”
The women’s outdoor season begins Saturday with the Colorado Mines Open in Golden.
The Mavericks are picked to finish eighth in the RMAC in the outdoor season, with Adams State the overwhelming favorite again.
Sophomore distance runner Alexis Skarda is a unanimous preseason all-conference selection after her All-America performance in the mile run during the indoor season.
Mesa State’s spring scrimmage begins Saturday at 11 a.m. at Bergman Field behind The Maverick Center. The two-hour scrimmage will pit the No. 1 offense against the No. 1 defense, the No. 2 offense against the No. 2 defense, etc., in a controlled scrimmage.
Coach Joe Ramunno said the spring session has allowed the Mavs to get more comfortable with the offense.
“The big thing has just been getting our guys to understand the system more and more,” he said. “We had so many young guys playing and now they’ve got more experience working together. The team chemistry thing is huge.”
Along with the scrimmage is the second annual Lawn Chair Bowl. A $5 donation goes to the football program to help cover equipment and travel expenses, and a barbecue after the scrimmage is $7 a plate.