Plenty of memories
GJ's Aubert tops Hayward in regional final
Luke Aubert pounced early Friday and took care of business with ruthless efficiency.
The Grand Junction sophomore carved up his opponent and Western Slope rival, Trigg Hayward of Fruita Monument, in the Class 5A regional No. 3 singles finals in straight sets to win his first regional title.
The Tigers also won a regional title at No. 1 doubles and had state qualifiers at No. 1 singles, and No. 3 and 4 doubles.
Aubert’s 6-1, 6-1 win was the culmination of a memorable regional tournament.
“This season, I’ve definitely improved my all-around game,” he said. “I used to just be a mostly ground-stroke player. I’ve started to develop more of a slice, more volleys and that really helped today because I was able to mix it up instead of just sitting on the baseline slapping away.”
Aubert and Hayward had a three-set battle the last time they met in the regular season, but Friday at the Elliott Tennis Center, Aubert took control early and never let up.
“I’m very happy, it’s awesome. That’s the best I’ve played all season,” Aubert said. “It was great because I was playing one of my best friends. Even though we’re rivals, we’re really close.”
The good news for Hayward, a freshman, is that he also qualified for state. He actually found out he would be the second qualifier at No. 3 singles when the match on the adjacent court finished with Mountain Vista’s Hunter Hostelley winning.
Since Hayward defeated the Mountain Vista senior Thursday, there would be no playback match.
“I was excited, because I knew whatever happened in my match that I was going to state,” Hayward said. “I’ve improved so much this season and now I’m super excited to go to state,”
Thursday’s marathon three-set win over Hostelley, was a grueling physical and mental test, forcing Hayward to bounce back with a morning match in the finals. But he gave no excuses for his play on Friday.
Aubert, who will be making his first trip to state, said he had to deal with nerves on both days.
“Yesterday I was shaking, I was really nervous,” he said. “I always start out shaking and nervous but once I settle in to the match, I start loosening up and playing better.”
Back to state
For seniors Matt Miller and Ryan Bowen, it was another solid regional tournament.
Playing at No. 1 doubles, the duo beat the Mountain Vista’s Grant Smith and Matt Szmyd 6-4, 6-1. It was the third regional title for both Miller and Bowen. They played together as sophomores, then last season Bowen was at No. 1 doubles and Miller was at No. 2 doubles.
As teammates, their doubles game is rarely out of sync.
“I guess we’re not really teammates, we’re more friends,” Bowen said. “We’re both competitive and we push each other.”
Miller agreed: “We stay relaxed and have fun out there, we don’t really have any pressure on us.”
The duo agreed that qualifying for state is always a satisfying accomplishment.
“It’s awesome, I love going to state. We get to go play tennis, it’s better than school,” Miller said with a chuckle.
Cameron Weckerly, a Grand Junction sophomore, finished second at No. 1 singles but qualified for the state tournament.
At No. 3 doubles, Grand Junction duo Tommy Mahre and Riley King lost in the finals to finish second but they did not have a playback match and qualified for state.
Grand Junction’s Matthew Martinez and Joseph Hirschbuhl had to do some extra work on Friday to punch their ticket to state. The No. 4 doubles team lost a tough three-set match, 5-7, 6-0, 6-3 in the title match, but then rallied from one set down to win their playback match against Rocky Mountain.
In one of the best matches of the day, Fruita Monument’s Jackson Cesark and Daniel Lastine made a spirited comeback in an effort to qualify for state before losing a heartbreaking three-set playback match to Mountain Vista’s Smith and Szmyd at No. 1 doubles.
The 5A state tournament will be Oct. 13-15 at the Gates Tennis Center in Denver.