Aspen, Basalt tennis teams head to Grand Junction for regional play, state on deck
Mired in a fall hampered by the coronavirus pandemic, the boys tennis season is the first to have made it through to the postseason. Aspen High School will look to continue its relative dominance at regionals 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 the past two seasons, and won six of seven regional championships last fall.
“We’ve been playing well and are feeling good. But again, just got to have it on the right day,” AHS coach Steve Sand said. “Half the team is new to this whole regional scene, but we have a lot of senior leadership that’s been helping at practice and at matches.”
Despite COVID-19 shortening the season and creating some changes to the postseason format, the state brackets will continue to include full 16-player (or team) fields. However, there will not be a playback bracket this year and state will be a two-day affair as opposed to its normal three days.
Pueblo City Park, which is hosting the Class 4A state tennis tournament that Aspen would attend, is not allowing spectators in the facility.
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Before state, the Skiers will have to battle through regional play on Friday, with both the regional champion and runner-up advancing to Pueblo. Aspen’s No. 1 singles player is senior Christian Kelly and No. 2 singles player is senior Alex Mosher, both veterans who have been here before.
Kelly and Mosher also held down the 1 and 2 spots 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 the state semifinals at No. 2 singles. There he lost 7-6, 6-3 to Mullen junior George Henry Hanzel, who then lost in the finals.
“They’ve played big matches at regionals and state,” Sand said. “I’m feeling good. We’ve had a good, shortened season. We’ve been trying to schedule more Front Range matches against some top teams to challenge ourselves and two of those got canceled because the season got shortened.”
The No. 3 singles spot is held down by freshman Chase Kelly, Christian’s younger brother. He’s been Aspen’s most steady player in terms of picking up victories on the court.
“Chase is undefeated for the year at No. 3 singles,” Sand said. “Hopefully he can just kind of continue doing what he’s doing, being confident and getting the wins.”
The No. 1 doubles spot also is an experienced senior duo in Bryce Cordts-Pearce and Lukee Tralins. The postseason experience falls off a little bit after that.
The Class 4A, Region 8 tournament in Grand Junction, which is played Friday 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 as a club in fall 2017 before becoming an official varsity squad in fall 2018.
The Longhorns are currently led by first-year head coach Sarah Varner, a 27-year-old from Mississippi who has lived in the Roaring Fork Valley for almost 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 being 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 boys, though.”
Basalt junior Matthew Roggie is the team’s No. 1 singles player, senior Davis Barill is the No. 2 singles player and sophomore Connor Hoffman is at No. 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 that will build with years to come.”
OTHER PREP NOTES
- The Basalt High softball team played a doubleheader Tuesday in Meeker, winning a game 8-5 and losing another, 18-3. The split dropped the Longhorns to 7-5 overall and 7-2 in league play. Limited to only 16 games this fall because of the pandemic, the end of the regular season is fast approaching. BHS next plays Tuesday at home against Delta.
- The Aspen High softball team lost 20-5 and 37-3 on Wednesday at Eagle Valley. The Skiers, now 0-8, are off until late next week when they go 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 tie for seventh place, while Miles Butera shot 83 to tie for 15th. None of the players who competed in Vail will be part of the team’s regional lineup for Tuesday’s tournament at River Valley Ranch in Carbondale, hosted by Basalt. The Class 3A state golf tournament remains scheduled for Oct. 5-6 at Dos Rios in Gunnison.
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There was some fun post-game banter about maybe making a run at the Europa League crown, or at the very least a championship here in Colorado, but coaches and veteran players alike made sure the Aspen soccer team had its eyes aimed at a more reasonable goal, like making the playoffs.