Friday's snows and frigid temperatures weren't enough to interfere with opening day competition at the two-day Class 4A Region 8 tennis tournament at Grand Junction. While snow was on the ground just a few miles away, the courts at Canyon View Park were just wet enough to delay the start for a few minutes.
And it was cold.
The Hotchkiss team didn't achieve the goal of qualifying players for state, but "We came pretty darn close," said head coach Brian Benson.
The 4 doubles team of Ethan Eller and Eddie Cambria were seeded fourth in the eight-team tournament. They opened with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Cedaredge and an expected 1-6, 1-6 loss to Aspen on Friday. Due to another team dropping out, they received a bye to the Saturday's third-place match, said Benson.
On Saturday, they opened with a 6-1, 6-2 match against Durango. The win allowed them to challenge Steamboat, which placed second, for their place at state. They opened with a 0-6 loss, which was expected, said Benson.
Eller and Cambria opened the second set with a 2-0 lead, "And it was kind of getting interesting," said Benson. They forced a 6-6 tiebreaker set, and lost, 2-7. "What a great match," said Benson. "It was truly a remarkable day for our kids to play the way they did against a known tennis program."
Eller and Cambria ended the season with a 13-4 record — the top team record this season, noted Benson.
The 2 doubles team of Ulises Mendoza and Luke Yerion opened Friday's first-round action with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Cedaredge freshmen Vincent Welch and Agustus Sandels, then lost to Aspen. A 6-1, 6-0 win over Cortez advanced them to the match for third place on Saturday against Steamboat Springs. Benson said their odds of winning were "slim and none," but Yerion and Mendoza won the first set, 6-1. "The second set really came down to a handful of points" in Steamboat's favor in the 6-3 loss. "Those points kind of broke our back," said Benson. Steamboat won the third set, 6-0.
"We may have lost the match," said Benson, but judging by the reactions of coaches and players, they gained some respect from their opponents.
Benson said he expected the first-round losses at singles and 1 and 3 doubles, and that playbacks were likely. And while they didn't result in any state qualifiers, playbacks did result in 18 team matches for the tournament — far more than the 10-12 they would normally play.
"The great thing about all the playbacks is that you are in contention and you get a lot of experience for the future," said Benson, who will lose three seniors out of this season's 20 players.
At 1 singles, Azure Eller faced a tough draw in No. 1-seeded senior, Ryder Searle of Durango, who won the regional title. Eller, a junior, then faced Aspen's Dylan Behr, whom he'd lost to in straight sets in late September.
At 2 singles, senior Michael Wilmore also faced the No. 1 seed and eventual champion from Aspen in the opening round, and in playback lost to Vail Mountain.
At 3 singles, junior Kaleb Bayles lost to tournament champion Ben Wharton of Steamboat. In playback against Vail Mountain, Benson said, Bayles held the lead for a good portion of the first set and played well.
At one doubles, senior first-year player Josiah Spano and partner, junior Keegan Burke, lost to Aspen, then lost to Durango, "after controlling most of the first set," said Benson.
At 3 doubles, seniors Tyler Suppes and Josh Parsons lost in the opening round against Steamboat Springs, then played to a 0-6, 6-7 (5-7) loss against Durango.
Durango, Aspen, Vail and Steamboat all qualified players for this week's state 4A tournament.
Cedaredge was less fortunate in its seeding. All seven of the Bruins' positions were eliminated in first-round play in the tournament.
Hotchkiss had one of its best seasons ever, finishing 8-3 overall, 4-2 Western Slope League record.blog comments powered by Disqus