Learning curve goes Wildcats’ way in win

Fruita Monument High School’s Sarah Fleming gets ready to return a shot from Grand Junction’s Carolena Campos on Thursday during her 6-3, 6-3 victory at No. 1 singles in the Wildcats’ 4-3 victory over the Tigers.

Fruita Monument High sophomore Amber Skillicorn set up on the baseline and put a textbook stroke on the ball, drilling a shot deep to the other end of the court, where neither Grand Junction player could reach it.

Wildcats girls tennis coach Clint Davis yelled out his praise to Skillicorn, then said, “She’s been playing three-and-a-half weeks now. She played soccer last year. These kids improve by leaps and bounds when they’re that early on the learning curve.”

Skillicorn, paired with sophomore Caitlyn Wood at No. 3 doubles, didn’t look like a newcomer to tennis on that shot, but she reminded everyone later in the Wildcats’ 6-2, 6-7, 7-5 win that she’s still learning the game.

On match point, Grand Junction hit a return out of bounds, and Skillicorn called it out, which was the correct call. The ball was close to the line, though, and Skillicorn then wondered if she was supposed to make that call.

“It’s out, right?” she said as she looked to the sideline and at Davis in particular.

“It’s your call,” Davis said.

After some deliberation by Skillicorn and Wood, Wood said she thought the ball was in, so the point was replayed, and this time Fruita won it without a doubt. More over, it ended a hard-fought, three-set affair that gave Fruita a 4-3 dual win over Grand Junction in a battle between the two teams that regularly duke it out for the Southwestern League title.

Thursday’s match did not count in the league, but it was a good win for the Wildcats, who return a mere four starters from a year ago, and one of those returnees, Shanae Honda, has been out with an injury.

Another starter was missing Thursday, and that forced Davis to adjust his doubles lineup, and Wood and Skillicorn played as a team for the first time.

All of the other flights had been decided when the third set began at No. 3 doubles, and the team score was 3-3. Neither Skillicorn nor Wood knew their match would decide the dual, and ignorance was bliss.

Skillicorn said not knowing was “good, really good. Definitely better to not know.”

Davis said, “At no time was I going to tell you,” and Wood responded, “That was a good decision.”

The third set went back and forth with the Tigers’ duo of Bree Call and Elise Larsen winning the first game, but Fruita took the next two. The teams kept splitting games after that, making the score 3-2, 4-3 and 5-4 at the subsequent breaks.

Call then served Grand Junction to a 5-5 tie, and Wood responded with a strong serve that put the Wildcats back up, setting up the deciding game.

Davis spoke to Skillicorn and Wood after the match about how to handle out-of-bounds calls, and Skillicorn told him, “I hate calling out of bounds so much! Because I’m so nervous.”

She now knows it’s her place to make the call, but Skillicorn didn’t mind replaying the point.

“If you’re unsure, I think it’s always important to replay the point. Always make sure you earned it,” she said.

Wood said she was glad to be part of a close, intense match, because, “You always get better form every point.”

Davis likes hearing that. There’s a lot of season left and a lot of growing for his team to do.

That’s why after the match he told his players they are still unbeaten in duals, but added, “We focus on skills, not scores.”

Also recording wins for the Wildcats were Sarah Fleming at No. 1 singles, Tayvia Voytilla at No. 2 singles, and the No. 4 doubles team of Amanda Blanco and Braedy Stoddard.

Fleming defeated the Tigers’ Carolena Campos 6-3, 6-3 in a match that was 4-3 in both sets.

“Sarah beats her, but it’s not easy,” Davis said. “It’s never easy against Carolena.”

Davis added Voytilla’s 7-6, 6-2 win over Sarah Megan Erb was a good one because Erb is a quality player.

“Sarah and Tayvia are what make our team tick,” he said. “They’re kind of the heart and soul, setting the tone.”


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