Hautzinger, Keeling enjoying playing singles at Western Slope Open
Fruita Monument’s Shannon Hautzinger and Central’s Hannah Keeling are no strangers on the tennis court.
Each played No. 1 doubles for their respective schools one year ago, and they faced each other twice. As Hautzinger recalls, they split those matches.
But when they meet today in the semifinals of the Western Slope Open girls tennis tournament at Elliott Tennis Center, it’s going to feel a little strange. Neither one will have a partner to turn to for help or encouragement, as both seniors went the singles route for their final season, earning the No. 3 spot on their teams.
“It’s kind of lonely, to be honest,” Hautzinger said of playing singles. “At the same time, it’s very mentally testing, and I kind of like that.”
Hautzinger appears to be doing just fine with the adjustment. She’s 5-0 entering the match against Keeling, winning her first-round match Friday 6-4, 6-3, then prevailing in three sets in the quarterfinals, 5-7, 6-1, (10-8) over Heritage’s Caroline McLeod.
“I had a really amazing match against Heritage,” Hautzinger said. “I honestly didn’t think I was going to win going in, but I’m happy it turned out the way it did. ... I pulled it out at the end. I’d say it was my best match of the year.”
Keeling won her first-round match 6-0, 6-1, then topped Denver East’s Aubrielle Lahey 6-1, 6-4 in the quarterfinals.
“It was a good start, and you want to start out solid,” Keeling said. “I’ve been working out the kinks (of playing singles) at the beginning of the season, and it’s always good to come out with a win.”
Like Hautzinger, Keeling enjoyed playing doubles.
“It’s always a lot of fun to have a partner because you can bounce energy off a partner,” she said. “In singles, you have to kick it into gear yourself.”
Hautzinger and Keeling were rarities from the three District 51 teams in the 15-team tournament, grabbing two of the five semifinal berths the schools earned in the seven flights.
Fruita Monument led the way with three semifinalists. Joining Hautzinger are the Wildcats’ No. 1 doubles team of Sarah Cesark and Lyric Fortson and their No. 4 doubles team of Alyssa Bohrer and Jillian Caldwell. Bohrer and Caldwell actually were a second No. 4 doubles team from Fruita, filling in the opening in the flight left when Air Academy stayed home.
Grand Junction reached the semis in two doubles flights: Nos. 1 and 4.
The Tigers’ No. 1 tandem of Jordin Early and McKenna Brooks won two close matches, including a three-setter in the quarterfinals. The Tigers’ No. 4 duo of Sara Perez and Taylor Rivas survived a three-set match in the first round, then won 6-1, 6-1 in the quarterfinals.
Early and Brooks are doubles veterans for Grand Junction, as Brooks played No. 2 doubles last year, and Early played No. 4 doubles.
Brooks said the two found out they would be teaming together at No. 1 the day before the first match of the season, but Early said they quickly learned, “We work really well together.”
They said the adjustment to the top flight is fun, and the play is more dynamic, and they’re getting better each match, such as from the first round to the second round Friday.
“A mistake you make in the first match, you can say, ‘We did that wrong,’ and you can change it the next match,” Early said.
They weren’t quite on the same page about expectations in the Western Slope Open.
“I expected us to go far,” Early said.
“I didn’t expect us to go far,” Brooks said.
But Brooks added, “I mean, I thought we would do well, but maybe not this well.”
District 51 is guaranteed to have finalists in two flights today. Besides the Hautzinger-Keeling winner advancing in No. 3 singles, Fruita and Grand Junction square off at No. 4 doubles.