The last time Hotchkiss attracted enough tennis players to field a junior varsity team, Mike Price still had several years of coaching in front of him. But when 20 showed up on Day 1, head coach Brian Benson was thrilled.
"I can't believe we actually have a JV team," said Benson, who took over from Price in 2011.
The team has already posted three wins, blanking the Grand Junction Junior Varsity, 7-0, on Aug. 20, and repeating the pattern against Fruita Monument's JV squad on Aug. 22. The Bulldogs squeaked by with a 4-3 win Saturday over visiting Vail Mountain School.
The first-year VMS team includes some of the top players from Steamboat Springs, long considered the toughest team in the 4A Western Slope Region, who were commuting from Vail.
While Hotchkiss barely had enough players for a full team in 2012, Benson wasn't too surprised by the increase in numbers this year. The new tennis courts at Apple Valley Park in Paonia, where the team practices and will host its home matches, may have been a factor, but several players were recruited from within, said Benson.
Since the courts can't accommodate practice for 18-20 players, JV practices at Hotchkiss in the mornings, and varsity plays at Paonia in the afternoons.
All home matches will be played in Paonia.
Hotchkiss has eight returning varsity players. Junior second-year player Azure Eller moves from 3 to 1 singles. Eller placed third in regionals and had a 7-4 record in 2012.
At 2 singles, Michael Wilmore is new to the team but not to tennis. Wilmore, Eller and 1 doubles player Keegan Burke attended camp at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, and played in the Taco Bell tournament this summer. Eller had the most success in the highly competitive tournament, placing fifth.
Caleb Bayles steps up from 3 doubles to 3 singles.
First-year player Josiah Spano and veteran Keegan Burke (2D, 2012) will start at 1 doubles, and returning player Ulises Mendoza will team up with Luke Yerion at 2 doubles.
Tyler Suppes and Josh Parsons are paired up at 3 doubles, and sophomore Alex Hulteen and freshman Quentin Varner will start at 4 doubles.
Kacey Kropp, a 2011 graduate of Paonia High School and a former 1 singles player for Hotchkiss, will be a volunteer assistant this season and plans to work with the team two or three days a week.
Kropp comes from a line of tennis coaches that includes his grandfather, father and uncle.
Benson is grateful for the help and so is Eller. "I can already tell that I'm getting a lot better," said Eller, taking time out from a hard-hitting practice session. "My serve got a lot better in the last two days."
Hotchkiss played at Montrose on Aug. 27. This Friday they host Cedaredge at 4 p.m. Their schedule originally had them at Cortez in early September; that match, at Cortez, was moved to Aug. 31. The two have played a few games.blog comments powered by Disqus