GJ’s top two doubles teams advance to semis
DENVER — Loaded with youth and inexperience, the Grand Junction girls tennis team failed to win the Southwestern League regular-season title for the first time in 18 years.
Yet the upside to youth is that those players eventually grow up. And a few of the Tigers are growing up in a hurry at the Class 5A state tennis tournament.
Grand Junction’s top doubles team of Emmie Madison and Madison Gurley led a strong Grand Junction effort during the first day of the tournament Thursday at the Gates Tennis Center, winning a pair of matches to advance into today’s semifinal round.
The final seven quarterfinal matches of the opening day were suspended by rain and will resume at 8:30 this morning, with the semifinals to follow at 9 a.m.
“We knew we were a work in progress at the beginning of the year because we lost quite a few seniors and we had a lot of our JV kids move up,” Grand Junction coach Carol Elliott said.
“We just knew it was going to take us some time, especially with our doubles players, to get them to play like we like them to play. We knew it was going to be a slow process. But they really started believing in themselves at regionals, and right now at state we’re doing great things.”
The Tigers seemingly are peaking at the right time, and no member of the team is exemplifying that better than Gurley and Madison.
Both players enjoyed doubles success at lower levels during last year’s state meet — Madison won the No. 3 doubles title with Alex Proietti, and Gurley finished fourth at No. 4 doubles. They have improved to the point where they now are one of the top tandems in the state.
Gurley and Madison opened the tournament with a 6-1, 6-2 win against Alli McGuire and Morgan McKelvy of Chaparral and advanced to the semifinals with a 6-1, 6-2 win against Boulder’s Cayla Morrissey and Chloe Kishel.
Gurley and Madison face the top team from either Chatfield or Rocky Mountain after those teams complete their quarterfinal matches this morning.
“We’ve been playing together all year, but this is really the peak of our play,” Madison said. “I’ve never played better with anyone before.”
Fruita Monument, which won the SWL title, lost both of its first-round matches. Janine Kirtland lost at No. 1 singles 6-1, 6-3 to Adriana Wojakowska of Palmer and was eliminated when Wojakowska lost in the quarterfinals.
The Wildcats’ No. 3 doubles team of McKenzie Kimball and Emily McGovern lost to Fairview 6-2, 6-1 but still have a chance to reach the playbacks.
Gurley and Madison highlighted the Tigers’ first-day performance, and they will have company in today’s semifinals from the No. 2 doubles team of Margeuax Prinster and Kyle Pond.
That duo advanced with wins against teams from Coronado and Denver East and play Chatfield in the semifinals.
The Tigers’ No. 3 doubles team of Nicky Arja and Emma Holt was eliminated in the first round by Heritage, but the No. 4 doubles squad of Anna McGinnis and Stephanie Skinner won their first-round match against Ponderosa before their quarterfinal match against Poudre was suspended with the Tigers ahead.
In singles, Proietti lost her first-round match at No. 2 and No. 3 player Samantha Weinberg won a first-round match before losing in the quarterfinals to Poudre’s Kwynn Ecton.
“We’ve got our No. 1 and No. 2 (doubles teams) in the semis, and at the beginning of the season you don’t think you have the potential to do that,” Elliott said. “If our No. 4 doubles comes out strong we could have three in the semis.”