Results mixed for Aspen tennis in season’s first matches
September 2, 2009
ASPEN – The Aspen tennis team logged nearly 720 miles in the season’s opening weekend. During their travels, they experienced everything from a humbling defeat to a blowout victory.
Skiers No. 2 singles player Michael Willsky, a Region 8 champion last fall, pulled out a three-set victory over his counterpart from 5A Grand Junction High School on Friday afternoon. His teammates could not follow suit, however, in a lopsided loss.
“We had several matches we could’ve won, but we just didn’t unfortunately,” head coach Sherril Kerr said Tuesday. “It was just a great challenge [for a 3A school.]”
Aspen rebounded Saturday by blanking Montezuma-Cortez, 7-0. The Skiers (1-1) cruised in straight sets in each match, displaying the promise that has Kerr dreaming big in 2009.
That optimism starts at the top. Bryan Mehall, who narrowly missed out on joining eight teammates at the state tournament last fall after dropping a third-set tiebreaker at regionals, returns at No. 1 singles. The sophomore served for the first set Friday, but wound up losing steam in a straight-sets loss, Kerr said.
Don’t expect that to happen much this season, the coach added.
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“It’s really tough playing at one singles – it’s the hardest position,” Kerr said. “He has worked really hard this last year and developed a lot of skill. I think that he is really going to be a contender this year. He has a wonderful attitude and never quits.”
Willsky topped Steamboat Springs’ Jeff Lambart in a dramatic third set at last year’s regionals. Now, the junior will look to advance to the state tournament for a third time in as many years. No. 3 singles Kyle Feuer, who has competed at state in No. 2 singes and No. 1 doubles in years past, is healthy and should also make a strong contribution, Kerr said.
“Kyle had been real sick a week before [the season opener], and didn’t hit a tennis ball for eight days,” she added. “Now that he’s back in the groove, he’s going to do really well at three.”
While Luke Pratte and Nic Broeking have all but secured their spot at no. 1 doubles, the squad’s remaining three doubles teams are currently in flux, Kerr said. Freshmen Devon Cardamone played with lefty transfer Brett Gordon at No. 2 this past weekend, while freshman Brian DeRosa teamed with junior Stevie Anderson at No. 3. Miles Kaelin and Kalen Gabow filled in at No. 4.
“No. 4 doubles is always a question mark,” Kerr said. “We have so many new players that some might grow into it. … Several of these freshman are pretty good players on their own. We’re helping them learn what doubles are all about. … It’s still to be determined.”
Early signs are positive, however. Thirty-two kids came out for the team this year – about 10 more than any other season in recent memory, Kerr said. “It’s a nice problem to have,” she added.
Kerr is also excited about new assistant coach Rob Simpson. He replaces Torre, who was elected to the City Council. The 25-year-old Simpson was the Atlantic 10 Conference’s rookie of the year while playing for Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio.
“He brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm, and that’s what we need,” Kerr said. “He’s young and fun and a great motivator. … He’s a real asset.”
Kerr believes the pieces are in place to produce a strong season in 2009. Whether the talent will be good enough to unseat rival Steamboat Springs, which has won 11 consecutive regional tournaments, remains to be seen.
The Skiers host the Sailors on Friday, Sept. 18.
“I’d love to come out on top in that one occasionally, but we’ll wait and see,” Kerr said. “Hopefully we can beat ’em up down here.”
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