Tennis: Aspen wins regional crown
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
The pressure was so intense that Aspen High tennis coach Rob Simpson admitted he had to walk away on a few occasions.
His Skiers were locked in the tightest of battles with perennial power Steamboat Springs in Saturday’s regional tournament at Grand Junction’s Canyon View Park. With one match remaining, Aspen was clinging to a two-point lead over the Sailors, who were gunning for a 15th consecutive championship.
No. 2 singles player Dylan Behr was the lone Skiers player remaining on the court.
Four crucial points were up for grabs.
“He was playing Steamboat. A loss would’ve put us down by two. A win, and we’d be up six,” Simpson said. “It never came out of my mouth that ‘Hey, it’s coming down to you.’ I didn’t want to put added pressure on him, but he felt the vibe of the place. He could see his teammates on the sidelines. He knew.
“As a former player, you do have a helpless feeling. You can only do so much. It’s so stressful. One set of tennis to decide the entire regional.”
Behr didn’t flinch. He had shaken off a 3-6 loss in Set 1 with a 7-6 (7-4) effort in the second. Despite the large crowd and the even larger stakes, he stood tall down the stretch, winning the decisive set, 6-0.
“It was very fitting that it came down to him,” Simpson said of Behr. “For some reason, he plays better under pressure. He won a lot of matches this season in the third set when he was down and really had to gut it out.
“The atmosphere was wild. Most of the matches had finished, and everybody flocked to the court. It was a special moment to see Dylan close it out.”
Aspen’s magical season continues. The Skiers rolled into regionals having won nine of 10 regular-season matches. After a victory in Steamboat Springs in September – its first in at least a decade – Aspen no longer was the underdog.
“It’s certainly a role that we’re not used to,” Simpson said, “but we embraced it. Ever since I started here four years ago, the goal of our team has always been to beat Steamboat. It’s special to be part of a team and a staff that made it happen.”
In addition to Behr’s dramatic exploits, five other Skiers won regional titles.
All of them had to beat the Sailors in the finals to do so.
Brad Broeking prevailed in a tight three-setter at No. 3 singles. Rocky Tschappat and Devon Cardamone and Michael Mondry and Alex Reagan picked up wins at No. 2 and No. 4 doubles, respectively.
“It was a total team effort,” Simpson said. “We literally needed every single point. There were six finals, and we knew we had to win four of them.”
Aspen will be sending 10 to Thursday’s and Friday’s 4A state tournament in Pueblo. It will be Simpson’s last tournament with the Skiers.
“I’m going to be moving away in a month,” he said. “I’ve been with this group of kids for four years, and it was a really special time. This is such a great way to end things. I couldn’t think of a better way to go out as a coach.
“I know we’ll be confident going into state, knowing we can play with some of the best schools in the state. We’ll go out there with no pressure and let it fly.”
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