Aspen girls tennis dominates regionals
Aspen Times Staff Writer
First things first.
The Aspen High girls tennis team captured its first-ever Western Slope 4A Regional Tournament championship Saturday in Grand Junction. Senior Laura Gordon became the first four-year champion from Aspen in No. 1 singles. And nine of Aspen’s 11 varsity players earned the right to advance to the 4A state tournament – more players than ever before.
“That’s the best we’ve ever done in tennis history,” said Aspen coach Sherril Kerr.
Behind Gordon’s win and three other victories from doubles pairs – Alex Leddy and Nicole Hernandez at No. 1, Jacqueline Pearlstone and Brittany Biebl at No. 2, and Courtney Sheeley and Jeniffer Leddy at No. 3 – Aspen collected 65 points to capture the team title by an overwhelming margin. Steamboat and Cedaredge tied for second place with 35 points each in the 10-team tournament. Last season, Aspen was third, its then-best showing at regionals, before finishing fourth at the state tourney, another best.
“Cinderella went to the ball,” said Kerr. “We didn’t just beat ’em, we whopped ’em.”
Gordon and the three winning doubles teams didn’t lose a single set.
Aspen’s No. 4 doubles pair of Christina Schluter and Meredith Hanrahan took second place to claim one of the two available berths to the state tourney, which runs Thursday through Saturday at Pueblo City Park.
“It was very contagious. Everybody was watching, cheering their teammates on, and they drew a lot of encouragement from that,” Kerr said. “They played the points very well, they believed they could do it, and they just went out and did it.”
Last year at the state tourney, Gordon, the 2000 state champion, was the runner-up, and the combination of Pearlstone and Biebl finished second at their position. Only three players, Jeniffer Leddy, Schluter and Hanrahan, haven’t been to the state tourney before.
“This gives them a lot of confidence heading into states. It can be very intimidating. Everybody knows how to walk and talk, and there’s an air of confidence, especially from teams like Kent Denver and Cheyenne Mountain,” perennial state powerhouses, Kerr said. “You’re up against their legacy, and it’s a little daunting, but the experience of having been there before, and their success this season, puts us in a good position.
“Stay in the solution – that’s been our motto all year, and they’re going to bring that to the table. It’s not like David and Goliath anymore.”
At the state tourney, 16 players or teams fill out each bracket at each of the seven positions.
“Anything’s possible. I’m not putting a limit on anyone,” Kerr said. “I think we really have a chance to compete and surprise some people.”
In No. 2 singles, Aspen’s Melissa Marcus finished third, just shy of a slot at the state tourney. Becca Cote also failed to qualify for states in No. 3 singles.
“She gets the go-for-it award,” Kerr said of Cote. “She never gave up and worked so hard. And in that case, the process is more important than the product. It’s a life skill.”
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The third weekend of play begins Thursday and runs through Sunday with the Bantam B, Squirt A and Squirt B divisions. Because of safety protocols, spectators aren’t allowed.