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Great start for PHS tennis

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The Paonia High School girls' tennis team is just getting started, and the Eagles have been hot despite the cold weather at the beginning of the season.

Like the boys' tennis team, which plays in the fall, the girls' team is comprised of athletes from both Paonia and Hotchkiss High School.

The girls' squad is more than twice the size of the boys', and this year 21 athletes are hitting on the tennis courts at Apple Valley Park.

"Last year we had a really great team, everyone was really close-knit," senior Jessie Holt said. "I think that inspired a lot of girls to play. They wanted a sport that they could relax in and have fun in and enjoy the company of the girls, which doesn't get to happen in very many sports."

Tennis teams on the Western Slope all compete against state competition up to the 4A level. Elite teams on the Front Range and from larger schools play 5A.

Holt qualified for state last year playing in only her third season of tennis.

"I don't think people realize how much extra time goes into it," Holt said. "Competing at a 4A level is a lot harder thing than 2A. That's the one thing that the extra effort goes into because you have to be able to compete with the girls who have been playing since they were five."

The Eagles hope that their easy-going attitude and fun-loving style will lead to success on the court.

"For the team I hope that we can do the best we absolutely can, and for now, I think we're pretty dang tough," Holt said. "I hope that we can qualify at least two for state and for me I want to qualify for a last time. Put that cap on my senior year.

"It's fun. I love having all the girls here, it's a really fun dynamic," she added. "We always have a blast every day."

Paonia played in two duals and the Delta County Invitational before last Thursday's 6-1 victory over the Fruita junior varsity.

"We are still kind of figuring things out," Eagles coach Brian Benson said. "In the Fruita match we were two varsity players short because of sickness, and we had two JV players step up and win a dramatic match at #4 doubles, so that was pretty cool."

The Eagles won all three singles matches against the Wildcats as Holt won her match 6-0, 6-0, junior McKenna Erickson won 8-0 in a single set match and junior Kelsey Stroud won 6-0, 6-0.

"Both Erickson and Stroud are athletic and tough competitors, so that should help them as the season progresses," Benson said. "They were partners in doubles last year."

Paonia did well in the doubles matches as well, taking three of four from Fruita.

Kayla Carter and Sierra Griffith lost a tough match at No. 1 doubles, falling 5-7, 0-6. Griffith played for Brandi Goddard, who was sick.

Emily Wilczek and Haley Park won 6-3, 6-2 for Paonia, and Bailee Campbell and Macy O'Rourke won 8-1 in one set match to take the No. 3 doubles for the Eagles.

The highlight came in No. 4 doubles where Kambry Hall and freshman Jaqueline Mora won 5-7, 6-2, 10-4 in a thrilling come-from-behind fashion.

Paonia is in Delta on April 14 at 4 p.m.

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