Tennis: Aspen’s Lambert eyeing state title
Results against Grand Junction Central Thursday at the aspen golf and tennis club
#1 Singles: Matthew Lambert (A) def. Will Ness (C) 6/0, 6/1
#2 Singles: Dillon Leasure (A) def. Brandon Holman (C) 6/1, 6/0
#3 Singles: Alex Ilic (A) def. Ryan Carsen (C) 6/0, 6/0
#1 Doubles: Gabe Suarez/Keegan Mehall (A) def. Braden Weiszbrod/Brenden Felix (C) 6/0, 6/0
#2 Doubles: David Zalinsky/Jonah Kelley (A) def. Watts Erb/Jackson Holmes (C) 6/0, 6/1
#3 Doubles: Christopher Gregory/George Gahil (A) won by default
#4 Doubles: Nolan Farrey/Nathan Bush (A) won by default
Make no doubt about it — Matthew Lambert returned to win a state championship for the Aspen High School boys tennis team.
A senior who has not played tennis for the Skiers since his freshman season, Lambert has looked capable of doing just that as their No. 1 singles player. A third of the way through the season after Thursday’s 7-0 win against visiting Grand Junction Central High School, Lambert has barely been tested.
“If I could win it at one singles my senior year, that would be incredible,” Lambert said. “It would be a huge confidence booster, and it’s really a sign that all the hard work I put in paid off.”
Lambert’s journey to being the Skiers’ top singles player began as a freshman when he made state as part of the No. 2 doubles team, going 1-1. Then his high school career took a detour following a two-week stint at the Smith Stearns Tennis Academy in South Carolina the summer before his sophomore year.
He liked the prestigious academy so much he decided to train there the entirety of his sophomore season, where he attended the Hilton Head Preparatory School.
“I trained pretty much nonstop every day, six days a week, about five hours a day,” Lambert said. “I decided for my senior year I wanted to play high school to get a chance to possibly win state, which is the goal of mine for the season.”
Lambert returned to Aspen, where he was born and raised, for his junior season but opted to train under Snowmass Club pro Paul Koenke and compete in regional tournaments instead of play for the Skiers.
Then, late in his junior season, Lambert made a decision that has greatly impacted his play this fall — he committed to the University of Pennsylvania and suddenly had a great weight fall off his shoulders.
He chose Penn, an Ivy League school, in large part because of the academics, but hopes to make something of himself as a member of its successful men’s tennis program.
With that decision made and his difficult academy training behind him, his senior year in Aspen has been much more enjoyable.
“It is very relaxing compared to the academy. The academy was pretty stressful. Didn’t get a lot of sleep; played a lot of tennis,” Lambert said. “It’s fun to be with the guys. The guys are awesome. I love everyone on the team. Everyone is a good sport and team player. It’s more about the team spirit and the fun before I go to college than it is about results.”
Those results, however, aren’t too shabby. Lambert edged out AHS junior Dillon Leasure, who had been the No. 1 singles player the past two seasons, for that top spot. Lambert won 6-0, 6-0 over Fruita Monument’s Jon Blair in the season-opening match, and then went 4-0 at the Lowry Bishop Invitational last weekend, finishing third due to total games played.
Tuesday he won 6-1, 6-0 against Grand Junction, and won 6-0, 6-1 Thursday against Grand Junction Central. He’s come a long way since his freshman season, where he “wasn’t good enough to play singles,” his academy training clearly making him a viable threat come postseason play this fall and beyond when he heads east for college.
“When you are working on it six hours a day and growing like he is, it’s a huge difference,” Aspen High tennis coach Gary Quandt said of Lambert’s academy training. “He’s going to try out for the team (at Penn), absolutely, and has a good chance of making it. They are a really good academic school, but they are also a pretty solid tennis school, too. So we’ll see what happens.”
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Katelyn Maley was the first across the finish line on Saturday at the Norris-Penrose Event Center, winning the Class 3A girls state championship in 18 minutes, 39 seconds. She came in more than 34 seconds ahead of second place.