After losing most of its varsity team to graduation, the Paonia girls tennis team is off to a good start this season. Following a 4-3 conference win over Cedaredge (see story on B8) Paonia defeated the Fruita Monument junior varsity squad, 6-1 Saturday at Apple Valley Park.
After all three singles players graduated, doubles players are adjusting to their new roles on the court. Making the jump from a doubles player to singles isn't easy, says Paonia head coach Dee Holt. For seniors Ashley Ziemer and Cambry Hall, both students at Hotchkiss High School, the jump was a big one.
Ziemer moved up to one singles, and Hall to two singles. As last year's one doubles team, Ziemer and Hall went into regional competition unranked and placed second to qualify for the Class 3A state tournament.
After Saturday's matches against Fruita were over, they paired up with a team from Fruita for some welcomed, no-pressure doubles action.
"Doubles is a lot more fun," said Hall. "You still get points, you still play hard, but you have each other to have fun with and remind each other that it's not super serious. But when you're playing singles, you kind of get in your own head a lot more and it's a little more difficult to loosen up and just play. At least that's what I've noticed."
Hall had the only loss of the day against Fruita, but made her competitor work for her 4-6, 6-4 (12-10) win. The game was "definitely longer than I wanted it to be," said Hall.
Both players said that playing at singles is almost a completely different game than playing doubles. In singles matches, said Hall, "You have to be a lot more in control of yourself and in control of your emotions and be able to pick yourself up."
After her 6-1, 6-2 win over Fruita, Ziemer said one of her biggest challenges has been her mental game. "I honestly struggle a lot with getting into my own head, and I don't have someone to help me with that," she said. As a team, if one player got down, the other would pull them up and they'd start having fun again, she said. Now that they're on different courts, she misses that camaraderie.
After Ziemer played baseline last season, and Hall played at the net, both are struggling to cover the entire court. "It's been rough having to do everything," said Hall.
Like Hall, Ziemer said she's having a hard time covering the net and getting back into position before the ball is lobbed over her head. "Against these singles girls that are just like crazy good, definitely have to change the game a little."
Former Paonia boys player Enoch Kropp has been working with the three singles players. "He's definitely helpful," said Ziemer. "He serves hard, he hits hard, and that's what we're seeing a lot more of this year."
At the same time, said Hall, those lobs and soft and high second serves can be tricky because they don't get them in practice.
Kropp has helped them to improve their own serves, too. With only two matches behind them, the toughest games -- against more seasoned teams like Aspen, Glenwood and Montrose are still ahead. "It's going to be a hard season," said Ziemer. After last year's success as a doubles team, "We've kind of accepted that we're probably not going to be as successful as last year. But it's a learning experience."
Holt said she's very happy with this year's team.
At 1D, Alice Carrillo and Jaquelin Mora defeated Fruita, 6-2, 6-3. Carrillo opened the season at three singles, and moved to one doubles after losing a challenge match to Sariah Talbott- Carey. Carey also won her three singles match against Fruita, 6-2, 6-1.
The change was a positive one, said Holt. Carrillo and Talbott-Carey "are happy in those spots."
At two doubles, Shayne Bayles and Sophia Cox won, 6-1, 6-3. The three doubles team of Shay Glaser and Carson Collins won, 6-1, 6-1; and at four doubles, Alejandra Gomez Lissarrague and Kristal Camacho won, 6-1, 6-3.
Paonia will play a conference match at Glenwood Springs (1-3) this Saturday, and will host Delta (2-3) on April 3.