Taco Bell tourney under way

Grand Junction’s McKenna Griffiths returns a shot from Kayla Wilczek of Paonia on Monday during the juniors 18 and under match at the Taco Bell Western Slope Open at Canyon View Park. Griffiths won the match.

Phurba Sherpa of Montrose returns a shot from Will Prinster of Grand Junction on Monday in the boys 18 and under match during the opening round of the Taco Bell Western Slope Open at Canyon View Park. Sherpa won the match 6-0, 6-0.


n a Boys 18 match at Canyon View Park on the opening day of the 2012 Taco Bell Tennis Open.

It can take just one good whack to learn a lesson.

Two years ago, McKenna Griffiths, who will be a junior at Fruita Monument High School, was playing tennis against perennial tennis powerhouse Cherry Creek.

“They’re amazing and I couldn’t get anything back,” Griffiths said. “So I just hit a ball as hard as I could and I almost hit a girl. My partner said, ‘Dude, you need to chill.’ “

So she chilled.

And on Monday, during the first day of the Taco Bell Tennis Western Slope Open, Griffiths chilled in muggy weather, defeating Sierra Filuze of Paonia, 6-2, 6-2 at Canyon View Park to advance to the quarterfinals.

“I noticed that the more mad I got the worse I played,” Griffiths said.

Griffiths will play Annavah Kropp when the tournament resumes with more action from the juniors (18 and under) at 8 a.m. today.

Rain and lightning in the afternoon postponed matches that were in progress, as well as 5:30 p.m. matches, to begin at 7 a.m. today.

The juniors will play at Canyon View, while the adults will play outside the Elliott Tennis Center at Colorado Mesa University.

There are 286 participants.

The adult divisions begin Wednesday.

Unlike the adults,  Griffiths hasn’t had experience through college and adulthood to learn phychological advntages one can get in sports. But she seems to have learned them anyway, despite her intense, competitive nature.

“She’s just a sweet, funny little girl but then she picks up a tennis racket and it’s like, ‘Huh? Where did this come from?’” said Griffiths’ mother, Diane Griffiths.

Diane Griffiths said her daughter has a natural sense of humor, something else that at times helps her “chill” on the court. The evidence is in a family photo album. Once on a road trip to New York City, the family rode a double-decker bus said Diane, who described the photo of McKenna in the bus, wearing a pashima scarf that was wrapped into what looked like a turbin.

That was the McKenna Diane knew until McKenna began playing tennis in seventh grade.

“I didn’t realize she was such a competitor,” Diane said.

Last season, McKenna was a doubles partner with Jacque Soychak at Fruita Monument High School. But McKenna is more stone-faced as a singles player than in doubles.

“Sometimes it was hard to keep from laughing with her,” Soychak said.

“They could take a blade of grass,” Diane said, “and turn it into something that is hilarious.”


Beaten by the heat:  Brian List hit the ace, then hit the deck.

Even a bag of ice worn under his hat didn’t prevent the 15-year-old Grand Junction High School student from keeping cool. Down 5-3 in the second set against Aaron Arellano in boys 18 singles, List served an ace to win the game, then laid down on the court.

He retired with a 6-4, 5-4 loss.

He said he felt as though he might vomit or pass out.

“It was kind of like the pros do when they win a big match, like ‘Yes!’” List said of his lying on the ground. “I even ate my Wheeties this morning.”

Bernie Pacini, a retired gastroenterologist who was a spectator at the tournament, recommeded participants bring an ice chest with water and foods such as watermelons and grapes. “They have no weight, just water,” Pacini said, “and it keeps you cool inside and outside.”

First-serve wonder: It didn’t take long for Taylor Scofield, who will be a junior at Fruita Monument High School, to preform better than he did in the tournament last season.

He went 0-2 last year.

On Monday, he won his first match, a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Matthew Ness in boys 18 singles.

His first-serve approach was simple.

“Just going for it,” Scofield said. “I was just hitting it was hard as I could. And it happened.”


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