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Aspen, Basalt tennis teams head to Grand Junction for regional play, stand on deck

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The boy tennis season has been caught in a trap hampered by the coronavirus pandemic and is the first to make it into the postseason. Aspen High School will seek to continue its relative dominance on Regional Friday in Grand Junction, with the state tournament scheduled for next week in Pueblo.

The skiers have sent all 11 players to the state tournament for the past two seasons, winning six of the seven regional championships last fall.

We have played well and feel good. But then again, I just have to have it on the right day, said AHS coach Steve Sand. Half of the team is new to this whole regional scene, but we have many senior leaders who have helped us with training and competitions.

While COVID-19 has shortened the season and made some changes to the post-season format, the statuses will continue to include the full fields for 16 players (or teams). However, there will be no play bracket this year and the state will be a two day affair as opposed to the normal three days.

Pueblo City Park, which hosts the Class 4A state tennis tournament that Aspen would attend, does not allow spectators to enter the facility.

Ahead of the state, skiers will have to battle through regional play on Friday, with both the regional champion and runner-up moving up to Pueblo. Aspens’s number 1 singles player is senior Christian Kelly and the number 2 singles player is senior Alex Mosher, both veterans who have been here before.

Kelly and Mosher also held 1st and 2nd places on last year’s team. Kelly lost 6-0, 6-2 to Pueblo Central senior Dario Alcala in the first round of the 2019 state tournament, while Mosher won his first two matches to make it to the state’s semifinals at No. 2 singles. There he lost 7-6, 6-3 to Mullen junior George Henry Hanzel, who then lost in the final.

They’ve played big games in regionals and state, Sand said. I’m feeling good. We have had a good short season. We tried to schedule more Front Range matches against some of the top teams to challenge ourselves and two of them were canceled due to the cut-off of the season.

The number 3 singles spot is held by freshman Chase Kelly, Christians’ younger brother. He was Aspens’s most regular player in terms of taking victories on the field.

Chase is unbeaten at number 3 singles this year, Sand said. Hopefully, he can just keep doing what he’s doing, be confident and get the wins.

The number 1 in doubles is also an experienced senior duo in Bryce Cordts-Pearce and Lukee Tralins. The post-season experience fades a bit after that.

The Class 4A, Region 8 tournament in Grand Junction, which is played on Fridays only, includes Aspen, Basalt, Durango, Grand Junction, Grand Junction Central, Steamboat Springs, and Vail Christian.

The basalt boys tennis team is still looking for its first state qualifier in program history. The BHS team started out as a club in the fall of 2017 before becoming an official varsity team in the fall of 2018.

The Longhorns are currently led by freshman head coach Sarah Varner, a 27-year-old from Mississippi who has lived in the Roaring Fork Valley for nearly three years. She’s a former Snowmass Club pro who jumped into high school coaching for the first time this fall.

It’s different, Varner said of comparing a club pro to coaching. It’s a different experience, and that’s exactly why I wanted to do it because I knew it would be. Really nice guys.

Basalt junior Matthew Roggie is the teams’ number 1 singles player, senior Davis Barill is the number 2 singles player and sophomore Connor Hoffman is number 3 singles.

It’s been such a weird season, Varner said of a fall overshadowed by the pandemic. I think our singles are strong. Doubles are the younger kids who will build in the years to come.

OTHER PREPARATION

  • The Basalt High softball-team played a doubleheader on Tuesday in Meeker, won one game 8-5 and lost another, 18-3. The split lowered the Longhorns to 7-5 overall and 7-2 in league appearance. Due to the pandemic limited to just 16 games this fall, the regular season is fast approaching to end. BHS will play at home against Delta next Tuesday.
  • The Aspen High softball-team lost 20-5 and 37-3 on Wednesday in Eagle Valley. The skiers, now 0-8, are off until the end of next week when they head to Cedaredge.
  • The Aspen boys’ golf team sent a group to the Vail Mountain School Invitational on Tuesday, where it finished seventh. Carson Miller led the skiers by shooting 81 to finish in seventh place, while Miles Butera shot 83 to take 15th place. None of the players who participated in Vail are part of the regional lineup of the teams for the Tuesdays tournament at River Valley Ranch in Carbondale, hosted by Basalt. The Class 3A state golf tournament remains scheduled for October 5-6 at Dos Rios in Gunnison.

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