First serve: AHS girls tennis season is underway after 6-1 win over Fruita

Aspen High School's Olivia Burkley, right, celebrates with No. 2 doubles teammate Stef Wojcik during the girls tennis match against Fruita Monument on Tuesday, March 5, 2019, at Maroon Creek Club.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Only a match into the season and there are a lot of unknowns for the Aspen High School girls tennis team. Not on that list is senior Mary Williams, who is back as the team’s No. 1 singles player for the fourth straight year.

“She doesn’t need much coaching. She is a problem solver and finishes matches,” AHS coach Steve Sand said about Williams. “She just kind of goes about her business. Doesn’t get too worked up. At No. 1, you always plan for the cream of the crop from other schools.”

Williams took care of business on Tuesday when the Skiers hosted Fruita Monument in their season opener at Maroon Creek Club. She rolled to a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Alexa Jo Willms, part of a 6-1 team win for Aspen.

“It’s good to win your first match, especially like that,” Williams said. “Now that I’m a senior, I’ve realized there is a lot of pressure off of me and I can enjoy the season more. I’ve also become so much more mentally strong that every single game I have a plan now, which has benefited me a lot.”

Aspen High School senior Mary Williams competes at No. 1 singles in the girls tennis match against Fruita Monument on Tuesday, March 5, 2019, at Maroon Creek Club.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Williams is certainly a state tournament veteran these days. She lost in the Class 4A first round as a freshman, before 3A had become a thing in girls tennis. As a sophomore in 2017, she lost in the 3A quarterfinals before battling back to win the playback rounds. She also lost in the quarters as a junior, but did not get a spot in the playbacks last season.

“High school tennis has been really good, especially mentally for me. It will also benefit me a lot with other things in my life,” said Williams, who is still deciding on college.

She hopes to at least play club tennis after high school. She also was a standout on the AHS volleyball team.

Outside of Williams, there could be some shuffling to follow over the coming weeks. The team has only had six practices to date, and with 31 kids on the roster and limited court space until the snow melts, it’s been difficult getting a long-term lineup set so soon.

“We’ve been working them hard and they’ve been responding and I didn’t know what to expect tonight. Had no idea,” Sand said of Tuesday’s match. “The girls know that this match came up on us too soon, so nothing is locked in. We’ve been having some challenge matches and are still evaluating people.”

Aspen High School’s Stef Wojcik competes in No. 2 doubles during the girls tennis match against Fruita Monument on Tuesday, March 5, 2019, at Maroon Creek Club.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Sophomore Macy Hopkinson, who played No. 3 singles a year ago and lost in the state quarterfinals, played No. 2 singles on Tuesday, winning 6-3, 6-3 over Erica Skillicorn. At No. 3 singles was junior Karina Keller, who won 6-3, 6-0 over Cassidy Lastine.

Last year’s No. 2 singles player was junior Niko Hansen, an exchange student from Denmark who is not back this season. She ended up finishing second at state.

“It’s good seeing Karina coming up and playing singles, because she has played doubles, and Macy has always been really good, so it’s good to have a nice set of singles girls,” Williams said. “I remember the first day of tryouts and we were all like, ‘Wow, we look super good.’ And we were all really impressed with how we had all been playing. I think that’s being shown through tonight.”

Junior Addy Walson and senior Bliss Pekkala won 7-5, 6-4 at No. 1 doubles on Tuesday. Both qualified for state last spring at No. 2 doubles, losing in the quarterfinals.

Junior Olivia Burkley and sophomore Stef Wojcik won 3-6, 6-1, 10-5 at No. 2 doubles on Tuesday, while junior Quinn Ramberg and senior Rose Becker won 6-4, 5-7, 11-9 at No. 3 doubles. Aspen’s loss came at No. 4 doubles, played by junior Virginia Tassi and senior MT Reid.

The Skiers will next compete Thursday at Grand Junction, weather permitting. A home match originally scheduled for Saturday against Vail Mountain School has been canceled, meaning Aspen won’t play at home again until early April, after spring break.