Steamboat Springs joining tennis elite

Steamboat Springs’ Valerie Lezin returns the ball Friday during No. 2 singles play at the Western Slope Open at the Elliott Tennis Center.

Although it’s not to Cherry Creek’s status just yet, the Steamboat Springs High School girls tennis team has established the beginnings of a solid tradition.

The Sailors have placed fifth or better at the past four state tournaments and this season again look to have another team primed to compete.

But at the first day of the Western Slope Invitational at the Elliott Tennis Center at Mesa State College, the Sailors found themselves with a mix-and-match lineup and didn’t land any players into today’s championship matches.

“We aren’t as strong as we could be, so this helps give us some depth,”  sixth-year coach John Aragon said. “Hopefully when we get back, those kids will want to go out and practice more to get into the main lineup.”

Steamboat was without No. 1 singles player Shelby Reed, who is a four time state placer. The Sailors also had adjustments to their No. 1 and No. 3 doubles teams.

“I think it is good for us,” No. 2 doubles player Hayley Richman said. “It is an experience, (Thursday) I wasn’t playing at my spot so we are switching it around.”

With a core of strong players, the Sailors didn’t lose a first-round match but fizzled throughout the day. Regardless, Steamboat has been consistent on the 4A state scene and for Aragon, the Sailors’ success is because of the feeder program he started in Steamboat Springs.

“That feeder program keeps kids coming into the high school where we don’t have to retrain them,” Aragon said. “You are reloading the program with kids who know how to play.”

The Sailors lost three players from last year’s team but have been able to fill those spots with experienced players.

“The whole goal is we want to see who is going to play one, two and three singles,” Aragon said. “So kids get out and play tournaments and are always getting better, which has given us a lot more depth on our team.”

One player who has worked her way up to the No. 2 singles position is Valerie Lezin.The junior lost 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 to Fairview’s Lisa Han in the quarterfinals, but performed well in her first Western Slope Invitational as a singles player.

Lezin said the Sailors’ year-round training programs have help to make them stronger competitors.

“We are blessed with a nice facility, so we all go out and hit together,” Lezin said. “The goal for everyone is to win regionals and go on to state and place.”

As for the Grand Valley teams, Grand Junction had the strongest showing, advancing with four players in today’s championships.

“It has been a great day the kids came out and played strong,” Grand Junction coach Carol Elliott said. “I am excited for the girls because we stayed focused mentally and it was a nice start for us.”

Both Fruita Monument and Central were unable to land any players into the championship finals, but the Warriors’ Elise Beckstead lost in the No. 1 singles semifinals to Grand Junction’s Charlotte Mooney.

Here is a look at today’s championship matches, which will be played at 10:30 a.m. at Mesa State College.

No. 1 Singles

Charlotte Mooney, Grand Junction vs. Kelsey Brading, Chatfield

No. 2 singles

Jenny Jessup, Grand Junction vs. Kelsi Clemmer, Ralston Valley

No. 3 singles

Katherine Ross, Chatfield vs. Megan Moore, Fairview

No.1 Doubles

Sara Layman/Sara Palmer, Chatfield vs. Alex Lehnert/Alyson Wolach, Greeley West

No. 2 doubles

Isebeau Tallon/Carmen Whitehead, Greeley West vs. Liz Heaps/Samantha Weinberg, Grand Junction

No. 3 doubles

Kara McCary/Kelli Selden, Greeley West vs. Alex Proietti/Emmie Madison, Grand Junction

No. 4 doubles

Carrie Ford/Chelsea Esmielem, Chatfield vs. Lauren Opatowski/Maggie Ropper, Denver East


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