GJ's No. 1 doubles team gets better of Wildcats again
Twice in dual matches this season, the Fruita Monument No. 1 doubles team fell to Grand Junction as the Tigers rolled to 7-0 victories.
But Thursday morning at the Elliott Tennis Center, Jackson Cesark and Daniel Lastine carried momentum into a semifinal match with Grand Junction after a three-set victory over Smoky Hill earlier in the day.
Cesark and Lastine were underdogs against Grand Junction’s Matt Miller and Ryan Bowen, but the Wildcats’ play at the net didn’t show it.
In the first set, Cesark and Lastine were poaching shots at the net with confidence, putting away soft returns and pressing their opponents. It wasn’t until the second set that Miller and Bowen took over, eventually securing a 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory at the Class 5A Region 5 Tournament.
Depending on potential playbacks today, a spot in the finals doesn’t necessarily mean a berth in the state tournament, as there are two state qualifiers from each of the three singles and four doubles divisions. The 5A boys tennis state tournament is Oct. 13-15 at the Gates Tennis Center in Denver.
The match started to shift in the second set when Miller and Bowen, both seniors, played closer to the baseline and slowed the pace.
“They were poaching really well and they were really strong,” Miller said. “We started playing back and getting ready for those hard shots and focusing on keeping them in play.”
Bowen added: “We were also trying to hit balls a little softer, just because it’s easier to hit a hard shot off a harder shot. We slowed down our pace to try and keep them from hitting all the great shots they made early.”
The slower pace knocked Cesark and Lastine off their rhythm, leading to several errors and double faults. Fruita Monument coach Clint Davis was excited about the hot start.
“Those kids have had the potential, always, and they still do,” Davis said. “They played really well and were right with them, especially in the first set, but they were facing two seniors who play really good doubles.”
Miller and Bowen face Mountain Vista at 9:15 a.m. today, the time for all finals.
The duo was one of several finalists for Grand Junction.
Sophomore Cameron Weckerly won his No. 1 singles semifinal match 6-3, 7-5. He faces Mountain Vista’s Ben Antonsen, who sports a 13-1 record this season, in the finals. Antonsen won his semifinal match 6-0, 6-0 after a first-round bye.
It’s a tough matchup for Weckerly, Grand Junction coach Carol Elliott said, but it will be a good test for the young player.
“That was a huge win today for (Weckerly),” Elliott said. “He stayed focused mentally, mixed things up, was really solid. Yeah, Ben is going to be tough. He placed at state last year. I’m excited about Cameron facing somebody like that and to see if we can mixing up the ball and competing, basically, at the state level.”
Grand Junction’s No. 3 singles player, Luke Aubert, as well as the Tigers’ No. 3 doubles team (Tommy Mahre/Riley King) and No. 4 doubles team (Matt Martinez/Joseph Hirschbuhl) also made finals. Aubert faces Fruita’s Trigg Hayward in the finals, guaranteeing that one of the District 51 rivals will qualify for state with a win today.
“First day is always key,” Elliott said. “To come out strong like we did is great and we need another strong day like this tomorrow. If we do lose tomorrow, there’s the possibility of playbacks and we’ll have to be just as strong as we were today if we want to make it to the state tournament.”
Hayward qualified for finals after a three-hour match against Mountain Vista’s Hunter Hostelley. The Wildcats’ freshman won 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) when his opponent hit into the net on an overhead shot on match point.
The two embraced after the match. Hayward was subdued after the victory, visibly exhausted, and Hostelley crumbled onto the bench before leaving the court.
“I’m tired,” Hayward said. “My arm is cramping, my toes hurt. I’m so tired right now, fatigued, but it was worth it in the end because I won it.”
Central didn’t have a finalist, but coach Mickey Mantlo said it was good experience for a young squad.
“I thought everybody played really hard,” Mantlo said. “We have younger guys and guys who are new to tennis. We’re excited about our kids coming out and taking risks today and coming out to play this season.”