Local teams gain experience at Western Slope Open
Lessons were served up hard and fast at Western Slope Open.
For Western Slope teams, those hard lessons came with little mercy at the tennis tournament Saturday at the Elliott Tennis Center.
With no local players or doubles teams advancing to the finals, a handful of competitors battled for third and fifth-place and others kept playing matches to get as much match experience as possible at the two-day tournament.
Fruita Monument freshman Trigg Hayward played his way into the third-place match at No. 3 singles before falling to Denver East’s Bryce Voirst 8-3 in the pro set format.
“There were a bunch of really tough teams here and I knew there was going to be some hard competition, but I just rallied it out,” he said. “I made it further than I expected and had a lot of fun.”
With an ever-improving baseline game, Hayward played a good match and held his own throughout. He said he was happy to get playing experience against high-caliber competition.
“I just play like I have nothing to lose and I’m only going to get better from here playing people who are better than me because it’s fun to try and play at their level,” he said. “It’s really motivating.”
The tournament featured some quality teams from the Front Range, including Regis Jesuit, Denver East, Heritage, Mountain Vista and Chatfield, the top five team finishers at the tournament.
Cal Hegstrom was fired up and playing with high intensity in his fifth-place match at No. 2 singles.
Shouting and pumping his fist with every winner, the Grand Junction sophomore played well but came up just short, losing the back-and-forth match 8-6 to Max Probst of Mountain Vista.
“I was playing pretty well, he just got everything back. He made a lot of great shots,” he said. “I thought I had that match, I was really looking forward coming out of it with a ribbon.”
Hegstrom said he will replay the match over in his head, analyzing what he could have done better or differently.
“I always think about what I could have done better, like maybe move my feet better or something,” he said.
Grand Junction’s No. 3 doubles team of Tommy Mahre and Riley King played in the third-place match but lost 8-6 to a Denver East team.
For most of the players from Fruita Monument, Grand Junction and Central, the competition took its toll, but they continued to get matches even after being eliminated from the championship bracket.
Luke Aubert, Grand Junction’s No. 3 singles player, said the tournament will help him improve.
“(I gained) a lot of match experience and it helps you to work on your mental game,” he said. “It also builds your confidence, being a sophomore and playing all these seniors. I just know that I will keep getting better.”
Fruita Monument junior Brandon Lovato, playing at No. 2 singles, said it’s all about improvement and being motivated to qualify for state later in the season.
“The competition was really tough but that helps me get better,” he said. “My goal is to make state at the end of the year.”
Last year, Lovato played No. 2 doubles and just missed qualifying for state, finishing third at regionals.
Aubert said the best thing about the tournament was getting tested against that high-level competition because there no other way to simulate that type of environment.
“You need to have match tolerance and patience for whenever you get into those tough matches and tough situations. You have to be able to build up that strength and confidence, and be able to work through the match and stay tough mentally.”
Grand Junction finished seventh with 117 points in the team standings. Fruita Monument was ninth with 92 points.