PUEBLO — For the majority of teams in attendance at the Class 4A boys state tennis tournament, the trip to Pueblo City Park is nothing too taxing.
A trip down I-25, with maybe a short highway before then is all that’s needed to arrive at the opportunity to play for a state championship. But for a few teams, a ride over four hours is required.
That’s why it’s sweet when a team like Aspen makes the trek and plays well enough on the first day to hang with the normal tennis powers. The Skiers came away with 12 points on the day, putting them in a tie for third place with Niwot.
They trail only Kent Denver (21) and Colorado Academy (19) in the team standings.
“We’re very pleased, obviously,” Gary Quandt said. “We had real strong singles going in, I was real pleased with what our doubles are doing. I’m happy with the way we’re performing right now.”
They got a big boost from their No. 2 and No. 3 singles positions as both Dillon Leasure and Alex Ilic advanced to the respective semifinal matches on Friday.
A bus ride in compact activities bus over Independence Pass can do wonders for a team’s bonding experience, but it always helps to rack up some wins along the way.
“It’s huge,” Leasure said. “Anyone that wins (on Thursday), it just motivates them more to root on the rest of the team for the rest of the tournament. And that’s huge because it’s so much easier to win matches through the rest of the tournament with your team behind you, rooting you on.”
The Skiers also took part in one of the more thrilling matches of the day, although they did not end up on the winning side.
No. 1 singles player Matthew Lambert had last year’s state runner-up Nick Lorenz against the ropes after taking the first set. But the Discovery Canyon sophomore showed why he is one of the picks to come away with the top singles title as he battled back to win the match 4-6, 6-0, 6-4.
It sets up a semifinal rematch between Lorenz and defending state champion Casey Ross from Kent Denver.
Since Ross got the best of him a year ago, Lorenz intends to go into the match with a mindset that he has nothing to lose and everything to gain.
“Last year I played well and obviously he’s a really great player,” Lorenz said. “I just have to stay loose, I don’t think I’ll get tight against him.”
But to his credit, Ross hasn’t fallen off from his level of play that put him on the top of the podium last year. If anything, he’s only gotten better and is trying to savor every moment of his last state tournament as much as possible.
“It’s really fun,” Ross said. “We have some freshmen that are playing at No. 4 doubles and they’ve stepped up and played well. I hope we’ve done a good job teaching them.”
That would appear to be the case as every Kent Denver team advanced to Friday’s semifinals. Those matches begin at 9 a.m.