Skiers boys tennis eyes first regional title
ASPEN Aspen boys tennis coach Sherril Kerr can only ponder what could have been.If the Skiers’ top three singles players from last year – Jakub Gers, King Koehler and Ryan Dunn – returned for 2007, Kerr’s chances of claiming a regional crown for the first time in her nine years appeared to be in reach.”Oh man, Steamboat [Springs] would’ve been in big trouble,” Kerr said last week. “But life goes on.”In reality, Aspen will be without its big three when it opens the 2007 prep season Wednesday in Grand Junction. Koehler, a junior, is training at the Evert Tennis Academy in Boca Raton, Fla. – he promised Kerr he’d return to anchor the team for his senior year. Dunn broke his right arm during a skiing accident and is not yet at full strength. His fall will be spent on the soccer field.And Gers, the Czech Republic exchange student who surprised everyone – his coach and himself included – when he burst onto the scene last fall and quickly emerged as Aspen’s best player, will also be sitting this year out. The Colorado High School Activities Association ruled that the senior, who recently moved to the valley to live with his older sister, is ineligible.”It doesn’t really make sense – there’s a prejudice there, I hate to admit it,” Kerr said. “We have to live with this.”Also conspicuously absent is Tyler Roos. The junior, a No. 1 doubles player in 2006 and one of seven Skiers to qualify for state, is attending a tennis academy in Grand Junction. “I hope I can lure these young men back,” Kerr said. “I might have to promise them a trip to Hawaii or something.” Not all is lost, however. The Skiers who remain combine to form a strong, deep team with hopes of challenging for a regional title. And while final spots have yet to be determined, some names have already begun to stand out. Among them is senior Brian Steinhurst, who returns to Aspen after two years at the Evert Academy and looks primed to take over the No. 1 singles slot.A deep pool of players, including veterans Kyle Feuer, Chris Taylor, Remy Pearlstone, Stephen Benning and Paul Young, are battling it out for the remaining spots.”We’re going to have a decent little team,” Kerr said. “We haven’t decided who’s going to be two or three [singles]. But whoever we do chose, it’s going to make No. 1 and 2 doubles really strong.”Kerr is slated to leave the team Sept. 10; she and her husband will be managing a castle in Vienna, Austria, during a study abroad program. In her absence, longtime valley tennis pro Torre and AVSC J3 coach and accomplished tennis player John Bresnitz will share head coaching duties.”I love having his energy,” Kerr said of Torre. “He’s real upbeat and brings testosterone, which they need. And John is a fine player in his own right. The boys are in good hands – I couldn’t leave otherwise.”Torre was an assistant coach for the Skiers four years ago. He vacated the post to accept a city council position. The former Florida State tennis player, who has coached in the valley for 13 years as both head pro at The Aspen Club and instructor at the public courts, said he’s excited to get back into the coaching ranks.He also sees great potential for success this season.”I’m excited for the season. From what I’ve seen in the first week of practice, we have a bunch of great individuals who are here to learn and all have room to grow,” he said. “They’re all athletes, and our job is to make them better tennis players.”A lot of teams have a killer for No. 1, then their talent drops off. Our 1, 2 and 3 will all be strong and competitive, and I guarantee you they’ll post winning records.”Sure, the Skiers lost many of the players that helped them amass an 8-2 record in 2007 – their top three singles players as well as graduating doubles players Skyler Maclean and Andy MacCracken. Sure, Kerr is already looking to 2008 as the season in which Aspen has a great chance to end Steamboat’s regional reign.But the Skiers have the leadership and the veteran talent needed to be a major factor this season, Kerr said. They’ll be able to better gauge their progress Wednesday.”It’ll be a good indication of what’s to come,” Torre said. “It’ll be a great first test – or a wake-up call.” Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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Buttermilk already is scheduled to host the world’s best at X Games this coming week, while it was recently announced Aspen Highlands will host alpine skiing’s NorAm finals later this spring.