Grand Junction tops rival Central on courts

Grand Junction’s Morgen Mantlo returns a shot as her No. 1 doubles partner Natalie Sufka backs her up Wednesday during the Tigers’ win.

The Grand Junction High School girls tennis team this week got its answer to an important question going forward: Who’s No. 1?

Tigers coach Carol Elliott watched a third and final “challenge” play out for the No. 1 singles spot on Monday and Tuesday, and freshman Carolena Campos emerged as the new 
No. 1, unseating Anne Hughes.

Three challenges allow any player to secure any spot on the roster, Elliott said, adding it keeps players competitive.

Campos, who locked in the 
No. 1 spot for the rest of the season, took her first turn in the new spot Wednesday in Grand Junction’s 6-1 victory over Central in a Southwestern League dual.

Campos fell to the Warriors’ Aimee Basinski 6-1, 6-2, but Elliott said she earned the opportunity to play against top competition, and even the losses will help Campos’ development.

“We had challenges during the first week of the year, and Anne beat Carolena,” Elliott said. “If you want someone’s spot, you have to beat them twice. Carolena beat (Hughes) on Monday and Tuesday, so she’s the new No. 1 (singles) for the season.

“We still have some things to work out with doubles, to get new combinations together, but we’re set at No. 1, No. 2, and 
No. 3 singles.”

No. 1 doubles players Natalie Sufka and Morgen Mantlo are the only Tigers with varsity experience in doubles, Elliott said. The pair anchors the team and has offered consistent scoring in duals and tournaments this season, she said.

Sufka and Mantlo topped Hannah Keeling and Bryce Lambert 6-4, 7-5 on Wednesday, and Elliott said the two had a strong showing against a team that knows them well.

“It’s always harder playing someone you know,” Elliott said. “Playing Fruita and Central, you play them over and over, and sometimes you get these little mental blocks.

“But (Sufka and Mantlo) make a good team. They have chemistry, they’ve worked really well together, and hopefully they’re that team that helps get the best performances out of our two, three and four doubles.”

Sufka said the jump to No. 1 doubles has been a tough adjustment, but the intensity has driven the pair to succeed.

“The level’s just more intense,” she said. “Even if we didn’t really play up to that today, it’s been way more intense for us.”

Central also has an inexperienced team, but coach Kathy Elliott said she was proud of the way her team competed Wednesday against a very similar squad.

“We did look pretty good because we play like them,” Elliott said. “We played to that level today. We don’t play to this level against weaker teams. They played (Grand Junction) tough today, and we’re proud of the girls for that.”


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