Basalt, Aspen boys tennis heads to regionals looking to keep season going
Only two years ago the Basalt High School boys tennis team was playing exclusively at the junior varsity level, a freshly-created program with only five players. Friday, the Longhorns will send a full squad of 11 varsity players to the regional tournament in Grand Junction with an eye on the future.
“Even though we have a young team, I think a lot of the players we have are going to be very good next year,” BHS coach Kent Oliver said. “And the eighth graders — I think there are a number of players that are pretty good that we are hoping we can bring in that already play well and continue to develop that program.”
Oliver coaches the second-year team alongside his brother, Karl Oliver. The Longhorns did not qualify anyone to state in their inaugural season and graduated some key seniors, including last year’s No. 1 singles player David Zalinski, as well as Dane Elliott, who helped start the program as part of his capstone project in 2017.
This fall, Basalt’s singles lineup has included two sophomores and a freshman, led by No. 1 player Jonas Kohout. Kent Oliver sees a lot of potential in Kohout as the team’s leader going forward. Kohout played No. 1 doubles as a freshman.
“He’s improved a lot, so I’m hoping in the next year and a half, two years he’ll be a really strong presence for our No. 1 singles, unless other players come along,” Kent Oliver said. “So I’m really excited to see Jonas grow. His service level has come up a lot. His groundstrokes have become more consistent. I think he’s going to be a really good player.”
Sophomore Matthew Roggie will play No. 2 singles and freshman Connor Hoffman No. 3 singles at regionals on Friday. The No. 1 doubles team is made of freshman Izer Lim, whose brother Randz Lim was a senior on the team last year, and junior Davis Barill.
The lone seniors on the team this year are twins Chris and Ethan Tomaskovic, who play side-by-side at No. 2 doubles. The No. 3 doubles team at regionals will be sophomores Connor Wolfe and Colton Stoner, while the No. 4 doubles team will be junior Austin Pagan and sophomore Victor Gomez.
The relative youth and inexperience hasn’t served Basalt well in terms of wins and losses this season, but it could be something that pays dividends in coming years.
“We have a young team and we have a bigger team than we did last year, which is better,” Kent Oliver said. “We’ve seen a lot of improvement from our players this year from the beginning, which is great.”
ASPEN LOOKS TO CONTINUE REGIONAL DOMINANCE
While Basalt is still looking to build its program, Aspen High School continues to have one of the strongest teams on the Western Slope. Under second-year head coach Steve Sand, the Skiers are hoping to again qualify all 11 players to next week’s state tournament.
“I’m feeling good. They have been practicing hard,” Sand said. “On paper I’m expecting good things from all our teams. But they got to go out and do it. Got to win the points.”
When the Class 4A Region 8 tournament gets underway at 9 a.m. Friday in Grand Junction, AHS will be competing against Basalt, Steamboat Springs, Vail Christian and Durango. Two players from each position will qualify for state.
Aspen cruised to another regional title last fall, and could be in position to do so again this week. Christian Kelly (No. 1), Alex Mosher (No. 2) and Liam Sunkel (No. 3), all juniors, represent Aspen’s singles players at regionals.
The No. 1 doubles team is comprised of senior Georges Ghali and junior Lukee Tralins; No. 2 doubles is junior Bryce Cordts-Pearce and sophomore Robert Holton; No. 3 doubles is senior Ethan Godfrey and junior Liam Farrey; and No. 4 doubles is junior Dyer Hunting and sophomore Quinn McKie.
The Skiers finished seventh in Class 4A last season. The 2019 state tournament is scheduled to go from Oct. 17-19 in Pueblo.
“Getting all 11 just keeps the team together and obviously gives you more chances to rack up some points, because everyone’s got a chance,” Sand said. “We want to go into state with everyone and with confidence.”
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Chase Kelly, playing at No. 3 singles, won his first three matches before falling to Niwot’s Luke Weber in the final. It was the lone loss of the season for the freshman.