Court changes: New faces in new places the norm for valley tennis teams
One word describes the girls tennis teams in the Grand Valley: Inexperienced.
Players are sliding from doubles to singles, moving up from junior varsity to varsity, and all looking to gain experience to be on the right track to the state tournament in May.
This weekend, the local prep tennis players will get plenty of opportunities on the court when the Western Slope Invitational begins today at Canyon View Park, Elliott Tennis Center and Lincoln Park.
For Fruita Monument, Central and Grand Junction, the Western Slope Invitational will be some of the first matches the teams have played this spring.
“It’s always near the beginning of our season and I like it better that way,” Fruita Monument coach Clint Davis said. “It’s good about exposing any little flaws that we have, and it sets the bar as far as what we need to work on.”
The Wildcats have changes at all of their singles position, with last year’s No. 3 singles, Janine Kirtland, moving up to No. 1 singles. Kirtland had a good run as a sophomore at No. 3, finishing in the top six at the state tournament.
“I’m going to have to get used to playing a lot of good people,” Kirtland said. “I feel like starting with the tournament is better than (dual) matches because you get to play more people in a two-day span that can help you improve your game.”
The Wildcats also have new players at No. 2 singles (Channing Hayward) and No. 3 singles (Taryn Moon). Davis said the outcome of the Western Slope Invitational doesn’t matter, as long as his players gain the much-needed confidence.
“We want to win, but as far as priorities, progressing and getting better are the only things that matter at this point,” Davis said. “I know it could be rough, but it’ll be good for the girls to see what the level is.”
Grand Junction is in a similar situation after losing all of its singles players.
Before the season began, the Tigers were delivered an additional blow when they lost potential No. 1 singles player Alyssa Behrens to a knee injury. Moving into the No. 1 spot is senior Maddie Hayduk. Junior Alex Proietti will play No. 2 singles with senior Samantha Weinberg at No. 3.
“You don’t get better in practice, you get better once you play some matches, and they’ll get better this weekend,” Grand Junction coach Carol Elliott said. “Our expectations are high and we have to work really hard to get there.”
Central isn’t any different than the other two teams, with no returning singles players. The Warriors have freshman Aimee Basinski playing No. 1 singles.
“She’s a dynamic little player,” Central coach Kathy Elliott said. “She has a lot of room to grow and has been very coachable.”
Elliott said the Warriors’ other two singles spots are still up for grabs, with sophomores Katie Murphy and Jamie Johnson and senior Kelsey Sloan fighting it out for those spots.
This is Elliott’s first year coaching the Central girls after 17 years as the head coach at Greeley West. The veteran coach said she’s looking forward to the tournament to see what type of players she has.
“I’m very competitive, so the girls are trying to get used to that,” she said. “This will be a real good eye-opener as far as how good the teams are, and maybe the girls will be even more accepting of how hard we push them.”