Together again, Arja, Skinner advance to semis at Taco Bell

Nicky Arja returns a shot Tuesday during her 18 doubles match at the Taco Bell Western Slope Open. Arja teamed up with her Grand Junction High School doubles partner, Stephanie Skinner, to advance to the semifinals with a 6-1, 7-5 win over Sierra Filutze and Gabrielle Ziola.

Nicky Arja and Stephanie Skinner have played a lot of tennis matches together.

Tuesday at the Taco Bell Western Slope Open, Arja and Skinner added one more win to their doubles resumé.

“We have a lot of chemistry and can just pick up right where we left off,” Skinner said. “That helps because we haven’t played together since the end of the (high school) season.”

Skinner and Arja, both entering their senior year at Grand Junction High School, played No. 2 doubles for the Tigers last spring, finishing 9-2.

They’ve played doubles together at Taco Bell the past four years, and had their best finish last year, placing second in the 16-and-under doubles.

Tuesday, Skinner and Arja moved into the semifinals of the girls 18 doubles with a 6-1, 7-5 victory over Sierra Filutze and Gabrielle Ziola.

“We play over the summer individually but when we get together, it’s all still there,” Arja said. “Our goal is to win, but we also want to show how good we’ve gotten over the past year.”

They could be facing Tiger teammates in this afternoon’s semifinals.

Kylie and Lindsey Pond, who also attend Grand Junction, play Tess Libby and Karli Reimer today in the quarterfinals.

“Everyone is pretty familiar with each other,” Skinner said. “You know the girls in the valley, so you have to play the ball and not the opponent.”

In true Taco Bell fashion, Arja and Skinner are playing in multiple events. Both are in the 18 singles division as well as the mother/daughter event that begins Friday.

All of the matches in the boys and girls 16-under and 18-under brackets are at Canyon View Park until Thursday’s finals, which are at the Elliott Tennis Center.

Skinner lost in the singles quarterfinals 7-5, 6-3 to Meredith Soychak, but Arja advanced to the semifinals with a 6-0, 6-2 win over AnnClaire McBride.

Arja plays Soychak in a semifinal today at 8 a.m.

“You don’t have that (other) person there in singles,” Arja said. “But it makes you play without someone, and that helps your doubles game.”

Aimee Basinski, who played No. 1 singles at Central High School this past spring, is in the other 18-under semifinal against Anna McGinnis.

Arja and Skinner are on opposite sides of the mother/daughter bracket.

“That’s the fun part of Taco Bell, is that you are constantly having matches,” Skinner said. “When we do play singles matches or family matches, we are still there for each other.”

The two 12-and-under semifinals are set with Marygrace Prinster playing Leelah Ahumada and Cheyenne McLelland facing Julianne Campos.

Carolena Campos and Aubrey Blocker advanced to the girls 14 singles championship match at 8 this morning. Right after that, they’ll face each other in one of the 16-under singles semifinal matches. Anne Hughes and Keira Trujillo are in the other semifinal.

Dillon Leasure advanced to the semifinals of the 12-under boys singles with a 6-4, 6-0 victory against Jarred Pond. Leasure faces Ryan Larsen, with Ryan Bowen and Alex Ilic in the other semifinal.

Matt Harris is in the semifinals of the boys 14 singles after a 6-7, 6-0, 10-7 win over Matthew Ness. Dylan Behr and Aaron Elisha play for the other berth in the championship match.

Max Proietti faces Caleb Gartner and Drake Giese plays Daniel Ness in the boys 16 semifinals.

Cameron Hicks advanced to the semifinals of the boys 18 singles with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Ness. Hicks plays Jesi Nordstrom in one semifinal, with Luke Ledebur and Vinny Castellini facing off in the other semifinal.

Afternoon play was postponed because of lightning and rain. Matches are scheduled to begin today at 7 a.m.


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