Steamboat Springs boys tennis team faces major changes in 2019
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The 2019 season will be one for transitioning and rebuilding for the Steamboat Springs High School boys tennis team.
In 2018, four Sailors qualified for state, two of which were expected to return this year.
Senior Gabe Rabanal would be back in the No. 1 doubles pairing, and sophomore Andy Schuiling would look to improve on his fifth-place finish at state from the No. 1 singles spot.
Unfortunately for the Sailors, neither will play for the team.
Bill Conway, in his second season as head coach, will lead a very young team willing to learn and improve.
“We’ve always tried to create a great culture and these kids are 100% bought in to the culture of working hard,” Conway said. “The effort and the attitude that I always preach is if you control your effort and your attitude, the match will take care of itself. These guys are 100% in.
“It’s going to be a fun season because they’re going to be a very different team at the end of it.”
While a lot is uncertain for the team, it’s official that senior Wyatt Stempel is taking over as the No. 1 singles player. Stempel didn’t play tennis last year while at a boarding school in Utah.
As for No. 2, Conway says it’s a battle between Gabe Gray, Kyle Saunders and Xander Dalke, all freshmen.
“I think (it’s a) mental game; being able to keep it cool,” Stempel said of his strength. “And being able to stay in the present.”
As a senior, Stempel expects to take on a leadership position on the team.
“There’s a lot of new kids and I’ve been playing for six or seven years, I’m just kind of welcoming everybody in,” Stempel said.
Although Joey Westermeyer is another senior, he won’t have the same upperclassman authority as Stempel, since he had never picked up a racket until a few weeks ago.
“I was a soccer guy, then I got a couple concussions,” Westermeyer said. “I decided soccer was a little too risky for me at this point and tennis seemed like a really fun sport, so I thought I’d pick up a racket and I’m loving it.”
Westmeyer said he already feels like part of the team, which begins its season Thursday in Montrose.
“The team’s awesome, honestly. They’re so much fun to hang out with,” Westmeyer said. “The coach, Bill, he’s just absolutely amazing, especially with new people. He helps you with whatever you want to do.”
The rest of the team is young, but came up through the junior program. Their familiarity with the game and each other could be an asset, especially in doubles play.
“We got a good group. They know the strokes, they know those things. It’ll be the first time they face you-need-to-win pressure, rather than let’s have fun about it. It’ll be real interesting to see,” Conway said.
Conway doesn’t want the youthful, inexperienced group putting pressure on themselves by thinking about the prospect of going to state.
“Our goal right now is to be a better team each day. How do we improve daily? We’re not gonna worry about the last match, we’re gonna worry about what we do the next day,” he said. “That’s not just in tennis. That’s, are we a good sport, do we make the right line calls. It’s just life in general.
“I want them to be better people and players at the end of the season.”
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