Basalt High School girls tennis team wraps up first season on the courts
Head coach Diana Elliott said creating a girls tennis team at Basalt High School was a challenge, but that was expected. With a season behind them, it seems the obstacles were worth overcoming.
“It was amazing to me how much they improved over this whole season,” Elliott said. “I was extremely impressed. They were always upbeat. They always were having a good time.”
The Longhorns put a girls tennis team on the court for the first time this spring. They played exclusively at the junior varsity level and only fit in a few matches, but it was the first step in building toward a full varsity program down the road.
Basalt even had sponsors, including the Western Dairy Association and plenty of milk to drink during practice and competition.
BHS had six players compete this season. Four of them — Carla Soto, Cheyenne French, Maria Martinez and Paola Martinez — were freshmen. Monserrat Soto was the lone sophomore, while the only upperclassman was Leslye Benitez, a junior who attends Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale.
“It’s like having a weird, extra family,” French said of being on the tennis team. “It’s like foreign cousins that you visit that are different but fun.”
Despite her German grandfather being a professional tennis trainer, French, like most of the players, had little tennis background entering the season. With help from assistant coach Linda Sullivan and two student managers, Elliott was able to mold the inexperienced group into something resembling an experienced team.
Having two talented managers helped a lot. Sophomore Dane Elliott, Diana’s son, and senior Rodrigo Perez went beyond simply filling up water bottles. Dane was the team’s main serve coach, while Perez was an important hitting partner for the players and led conditioning.
“(Perez) drove the girls crazy, because he is very much into conditioning,” Diana Elliott joked. “It was nice to be able to have that. They actually were managers that could work and could play.”
Dane Elliott, who has played tennis most of his life, is leading the charge to create a Basalt boys tennis team that includes Carbondale and Glenwood Springs players. He has been working with the BHS administration as well as the Colorado High School Activities Association with hopes of having a team on the courts by the fall season.
The girls hope to have an expanded group by next spring. Diana Elliott and Sullivan have long worked together building a strong middle school program to feed into the high school, and it’s expected they could have a few more join from further down valley.
“I definitely see about two or three of them that will definitely be on varsity. Some will have to start on JV again and move up to varsity,” Elliott said. “Then I have about five or six middle school girls that are coming from eighth grade to ninth grade next year and about three to four of those guys are strong tennis players.”
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While Lindsey Vonn remains the most successful female skier in World Cup history with 82 victories (the 25-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin has 68 wins and counting), her haul already pales in comparison to Shiffrin.