Tennis semifinals unkind to Western Slope
DENVER — It was a long ride home for the Western Slope tennis teams from the Class 5A state tournament in Denver.
For the first time since anyone can remember, there will be no players representing the teams from Grand Junction, Central or Fruita Monument in today’s championship or third-place matches at the Gates Tennis Center.
After a good first day for Grand Junction, the Tigers struggled Friday, losing both their semifinal matches in the championship bracket in No. 2 and No. 3 doubles and then failing to win any consolation matches in the playbacks.
The Cherry Creek domination continued in the team race as the Bruins wrapped up their 35th title in the past 37 years by advancing all six of the Bruins qualifying positions into today’s championship finals at 9 a.m.
The Bruins have 57 points in hand, with second-place Regis has 39 and only three positions in the finals.
Grand Junction is in 13th place with six points. Central and Fruita Monument failed to score in the tournament.
Grand Junction’s No. 2 doubles team of Jake Frankhouser and Greg Campbell reached the semifinals, but could not come through against the Cherry Creek tandem of Brian Maierhofer and Reid Spitz, falling 6-1, 6-1. They were then eliminated from the tournament by Boulder in their next match, losing 7-5, 6-3 to the Panthers’ Peter VanDusen and Harrison Vivas.
Darius Fugere and Matt Friesen lost their semifinal at No. 3 doubles to Alex Gnaegy and Luke Kiniry of Regis, 6-2, 6-2, then dropped their playback against Boulder’s Michael Bachman and Connor Hannagan, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.
“I enjoy coming over and like to play and represent Junction,” Frankhouser said. “It’s just too bad that we’re going home knowing that we could have done better. That last match (Boulder) we could have done so much better. There are no excuses.”
Said Coleman, “Really, we started out strong, winning the two on Thursday. But we took it for granted how well we did the first day and didn’t put as much effort toward (Friday). We were 11-0 coming in and finish 13-2. It’s not what we wanted.”
Friesen and Fugere felt they were back on track, winning their second set against Boulder. But the Panthers fashioned a fine comeback of their own.
“We didn’t play up to our potential and it’s hard going home as a senior knowing you could have done better,” Fugere said. “I’m going to CU and they don’t have a tennis team so I’m pretty much done.”
Friesen also said the tournament was the end of his competitive tennis career.
“It’s always bad coming to state, you want to take state and don’t,” he said. “We should have done a lot better for sure.”
No one was more disappointed than the No. 1 doubles team of Sam Morgan and Charlie Reicks, who defeated Air Academy on Thursday, then lost to Cherry Creek in their quarterfinal. Friday, they dropped their playback match to Arapahoe’s Eric Law and Brian Craig, 7-6 (7-2), 6-4.
“It was a disappointing state meet and we didn’t play anywhere near our potential,” Morgan said. “Since we’re both juniors we hope to be back next year, though. We knew what to expect coming in, we just didn’t play to our potential.”
“We just kind of had an off day against Arapahoe and it’s disappointing,” Reicks said. “We’ll definitely get better and be back next year.
“It was a tough go for all the West Slope teams. Central had some tough first rounds. We won our region so we got some better draws and had a decent first round. But we certainly expected to go further than
Grand Junction coach Carol Elliott also expected her players to advance farther.
“The kids did play well in our two semifinal matches after two very slow first sets,” Elliott said. “The second day is always tough, but you have to come out strong. We had a great first day and sometimes it’s hard to play well two days in a row.
“It was like the Western Slope (Invitational),” Elliott said. “We kind of did the same thing on that second day. It takes a lot of effort and energy and we didn’t step out like we were ready to go. I think in the end, we played well, but it was tough getting out of the gates on the second day.”
Elliott agreed it was a tough tournament for the Western Slope teams.
“You try and do as much mental preparation as you can,” she said. “Tennis is mental, too, and we have to get our kids out for a little more competitive play than just during the high school tennis season.
Overall, I’m excited. We came out strong and won matches the first day, and, for the most part, the kids played hard.”
By SCOTT STOCKER