Tigers’ net gain

Daniel Ness' return to tennis gives GJ a solid No. 2 singles player

After taking a year off to run cross country for Palisade, Daniel Ness returned to the Grand Junction High School tennis team for his senior season. Ness is off to a strong start as the Tigers’ No. 2 singles player with coach Carol Elliott comparing his confidence to that of Rafael Nadal.

Holy, high praise. Does it get any better for a boys tennis player than to have your coach compare you with Rafael Nadal, who on Monday won the U.S. Open for his 13th Grand Slam title?

Grand Junction High School’s No. 2 singles player, Daniel Ness, received such a nod from Tigers coach Carol Elliott last weekend after Ness finished second is his flight at the 16-team Western Slope Open.

Elliott said of Ness, “Daniel’s a winner. He reminds me a lot of Nadal. He steps out onto the court and expects to win.”

There’s another big name worth dropping when it comes to Ness: Michael Jordan.

Jordan retired from basketball after winning three NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls to try to play professional baseball, and when that didn’t work out, the game’s greatest player returned to the Bulls to lead them to three more NBA titles.

The similarity for Ness happened in the past year. After playing tennis for the Tigers as a freshman and sophomore, he decided to run cross country for Palisade High School last fall. Ness is in the International Baccalaureate program at Palisade, which doesn’t have a tennis team, so he played tennis for Grand Junction and played basketball and ran track for Palisade.

Ness thought cross country would be a good sport to help him with track in the spring. What he learned was: “That was too much running for me.”

Conditioning didn’t figure to be a problem in his return to tennis. The question was: How quickly would he get his swing back?

“For about a year I didn’t pick up a tennis racket at all, really,” Ness said. “I started playing at the end of June. Actually, it didn’t feel like I was off (my game) that much. I was pretty close to where I was when I left off.”

That was good news for Grand Junction as Ness won the No. 2 singles spot. Elliott said she’s glad to have him back, and Ness is doing well.

“He just has to work on a few things,” she said.

Quotable Coaches

“Good coaching,” Daniel Ness’s father, Roy Ness, told Elliott after Grand Junction’s Aaron Gossage won the No. 3 singles title at the Western Slope Open.

“I just stay out of the way; that’s what I do,” Elliott responded.

■ Central High School boys soccer coach Doug Beach must be a strong guy. Or really thankful he didn’t need to deliver on his promise.

When overtime arrived in the Warriors’ season opener against Eagle Valley, Beach beseeched his players to give every bit of energy they had left.

“Guys, give it all,” he yelled. “I will carry you off this field.”

No need. The Warriors’ Matt Miller scored three minutes into the five-minute overtime, ending the game, avoiding a second overtime and no doubt saving Beach’s back.

■ In the Palisade volleyball team’s recent win over Roaring Fork, Bulldogs coach Wendy MacAskill said it seemed her players were either all playing well or all playing poorly at the same time. Obviously they were on their game more than off in taking three of four games.

“The good, the bad and the ugly were all done together,” she quipped.

Making the Road Routine

The Grand Junction football team won its first three games, all on the road on the Front Range, and part of that success may stem from the Tigers’ approach to those long trips, which are unavoidable for a Class 5A school on the Western Slope.

“We have a really good routine on the road,” Grand Junction coach Robbie Owens said, adding one of his good friends in the coaching ranks, Regis Jesuit’s Mark Nolan, copies the Tigers’ routine.

Owens said the Tigers stop in Silverthorne at the recreation center to do a walk-through with the offense, defense and special teams. The Tigers then eat a meal there, courtesy of fundraising money.

They then make sure to get to the stadium early, as Owens said, “You never know what traffic (in Denver) and weather in the mountains will be like. We get there early and do another walk-through.”

Grand Junction’s 3-0 start netted it a spot in the CHSAANow.com Class 5A rankings this week at No. 10.

As good as life has been on the road, the Tigers might be glad to be at home for the first time, given their opponent at 7 p.m. Saturday: sixth-ranked Ralston Valley (2-1).


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