Starting over: GJ’s Madison welcomes tougher competition in move to No. 1 doubles
In Class 5A, there are only 11 Colorado high school girls tennis players who finish the season by achieving the ultimate goal — winning a state championship.
Those 11 players relish the fact they’re the best at their position, but for the players who aren’t seniors, the following March means starting all over again.
At the first day of the Western Slope Invitational at Mesa State College, Grand Junction’s Emmie Madison was one of those returning champions having to leave last year’s glory behind.
Madison and Alex Proietti won the state title last season at No. 3 doubles for the Tigers.
Friday, Madison made her Western Slope Invitational debut at No. 1 doubles with partner Madison Gurley. The Tigers’ new No. 1 doubles team fell 2-6, 6-3, 11-9 to Sheena Feiler and Jessica Gilbert of Vail Mountain in the first round.
“This is a good starting point to see where we are at,” Madison said. “This is a huge change to play No. 1 doubles this year because the skill level is so much higher, and the girls have more experience.”
Madison said moving up to the No. 1 doubles spot is a big challenge, but added she can take a lot of confidence from winning the state championship at No. 3.
“It’s helps so much going on that court knowing I’m a state champion, knowing what it’s like to win it all,” Madison said. “It’s a feeling you want to strive for, and I would love to have it happen again, but it’s going to be a lot of work.”
In doubles, the most successful teams aren’t the ones who are individually the most talented, but the duo that works the best together. Grand Junction coach Carol Elliott said she thinks a big reason why Madison and Proietti were champions last season was the bond they built together. She added that she expects Madison and Gurley to get to that point as well.
“Madison and Emmie will get to know each other better as they play more and more matches,” Elliott said. “They are two kids that are very competitive, and they will start to know how to pick each other up when the other one isn’t playing well.”
Madison said in their match against Vail Mountain, she was already attempting to build that connection.
“I even asked her today, ‘What helps you get pumped up?’ ” Madison said. “Because it’s those small things in communication that really help you as partners.” While Madison is working on building a new partnership with Gurley, Proietti is venturing into new territory as a singles player. Proietti’s making the jump from No. 3 doubles to No. 2 singles. She started off her Friday well by winning her first match against Columbine’s Brittany Williams, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.
She lost in the next round to Denver East’s Lauren Musso, 6-3, 6-0.
“She’s out there on her own, which means learning to play by yourself,” Elliott said. “You have to learn to work through things by yourself, because there isn’t someone there helping you.”
Proietti and Madison weren’t the only local players to get used to playing in their new positions as Grand Junction’s No. 3 singles Samantha Weinberg, and No. 4 doubles Stephanie Skinner and Anna McGinnis are the only local players still alive in the championship bracket.
Grand Junction finished the first day with 110 team points, and Elliott said the Tigers learned a lot Friday.
“We lost a few close ones but the fact we are playing a lot of matches and competing is going to be great for us,” Elliott said.
Central had solid performances from Aimee Basinski at No. 1 singles and Katie Murphy at No. 3 singles, who both got first-round wins. The Warriors ended the first day with 42 team points.
“We are very excited about the girls,” Central coach Kathy Elliott said. “Our singles had a real good day, and our scores reflect that.”
Fruita Monument was led by its No. 4 doubles team of Lucy Hartshorn and Camille Kovach. The pair advanced into the semifinals, but had to default because one of the players is unable to attend today’s tournament. Fruita has 110 team points after one day.
“It went really well,” Fruita Monument coach Clint Davis said. “I went into the tournament with so many questions, so I was proud of how they played.”
Fairview leads the team scores with 204 after a first day of the tournament that was shortened by an early weather delay, so most of the championship brackets are still in the semifinal round. Those matches begin at 7:30 a.m. at Canyon View Park.