Tennis a new challenge for Mickey Mantlo
Mickey Mantlo knows how to swing a bat.
The East Middle School teacher grew up playing baseball and coached the varsity baseball team at Palisade High School nearly a decade ago.
Mantlo, though, is trying a new sport this year — tennis, with his daughter, Morgen.
“When I first started (playing tennis), I thought it can’t be much different than hitting a baseball, but it is different,” Mickey said. “I like the combination of the technical aspect of it and the cardio. It’s an interesting combination.”
The Mantlos are playing in the 53rd annual Taco Bell Western Slope Open this week. They played their first tournament match together Thursday in the Father-Daughter 18-under doubles division.
“It’s a little different (playing with her dad), but it’s fun,” Morgen said.
Although they lost 6-0, 6-1 to Brian and Brianna Ballard in the first round, they had fun.
“It was a blast,” Mickey Mantlo said. “It’s a fun game. She tells me what to do out there. I’ve coached her in several sports, so it was interesting to have the roles reversed.”
Morgen Mantlo, 15, has played several sports growing up, mostly basketball, softball and volleyball, but wanted to try something new.
“I was looking for a different sport to play,” she said. “We know (the Elliott) family so we decided to give tennis a try.”
Mickey graduated high school with Julie Elliott, the youngest daughter of Carter and Lena Elliott, in 1991. The Elliott family organizes and runs the tournament each year.
Mickey and Julie were not only classmates, they both teach at East Middle School and coach seventh and eighth grade basketball together. Mickey also coaches volleyball, wrestling and track.
“My daughter started to take up tennis and I asked Julie if she would work with her,” Mickey Mantlo said.
Morgen was willing to give tennis a try and played on the Grand Junction High School junior varsity team as a freshman the past spring. Julie Elliott was her coach. The Tigers’ varsity coach is one of Julie’s older sisters, Carol.
Now, Morgen is getting her father involved.
“I like spending time with my daughter,” Mickey said. “Everything from Little League on up.”
He and Julie Elliott are playing in the mixed 7.5 combined division and defeated Ryan Emmett and Tracy Hughes 6-4, 6-1 in the first round.
“It’s been such a kick to reconnect with Mickey and his family,” Julie Elliott said. “Mickey is a good athlete and picks things up quick. It has been fun. They are taking a liking to the sport.”