Junior Tennis League mixes players from valley high schools
During the summer, local high school tennis players trade in their loyalties to the Tigers, Wildcats and Warriors for those of the Baseliners, Lobsters and Dinkers.
Since 1992, Ron Elliott has organized the Mesa County Junior Tennis League, an eight-week summer tennis program for high school and middle school players.
This year, 62 high school players are on eight different teams.
“What’s good about this league is it’s a mixture of Central, Junction and Fruita, so you wouldn’t know they were enemies during the regular season,” Elliott said. “We have JV kids playing alongside varsity kids, and it’s really beneficial for everyone.”
The eight high school league teams play on Tuesdays and Thursdays and four middle school league teams play on Monday and Wednesdays.
This is the first year the teams have been coached by recently graduated seniors.
“The coaches are graduated seniors who are looking for a summer job,” Elliott said. “They’ll take the first 15 minutes of each day and do drills and work with their kids.”
Margeaux Prinster graduated from Grand Junction this past May, and is serving as the head coach for the Slicers. Prinster played doubles for the Tigers, and said being a coach has forced her to improve her overall tennis knowledge.
“You learn a lot about the game,” Prinster, who’s attending the University of Notre Dame in the fall. “I’ve had to brush up on the strategy of singles because I have players like Alex (Proietti) and she’s a really good singles player, so I need to make sure I can give players like that advice.”
The league began Memorial Day weekend and finishes right before the Taco Bell Western Slope Open. Standings are kept for the league with a season-ending tournament deciding the champion.
“It’s a two-week playoff but everyone comes away with something,” Elliott said. “We even have awards for the worst team.”
The league is the final stage for local youth summer tennis. Elliott said most of the high school players began the Mesa County Tennis Program by simply taking lessons.
“It’s a feeder system,” Elliott said. “When they are done with the lessons, we put them into our middle school leagues for two or three years until they are ready for the high school league.”
The teams get in three one-set matches every day, singles, doubles and mixed doubles.
“We are just trying to play a lot and develop our mental game for the season,” Grand Junction sophomore Tate Hegstrom said. “Since it’s all only one set you have to start strong and be consistent throughout the set.”