Durango tennis finally finds its place

Steve Lewis/Durango Herald

Freshman Sarah Harrelson at No. 2 singles and No. 1 doubles duo Kit Hackett and Meredith Nass are settling into their final spots of the season: The CHSAA Class 4A Girls Tennis State Championships. All three will open the state tournament at 9 a.m. today in Pueblo.

By Jim Sojourner Herald staff writer

What a difference a lineup makes.

After a full year of scrambling, shifting, shuffling and mostly losing, the Durango High School girls tennis team finally settled into its proper lineup positions last week just in time for regionals.

Now, regional runners-up Sarah Harrelson at No. 2 singles and Meredith Nass and Kit Hackett at No. 1 doubles have to settle into new spots one more time – their spots in the state tournament.

“Us working together just clicked,” Nass said of she and Hackett’s run to second place at regionals.

“It was the lineup,” said first-year head coach Laura Ehlers, who ushered her three state qualifiers into an SUV Wednesday afternoon at DHS. “Played a full week in those positions ... and we really focused on just playing.”

“Just playing” is the plan for the CHSAA Class 4A Girls Tennis State Championships starting today in Pueblo, too. Good tennis and good experience to add to the girls team-leadership portfolio, Ehlers said.

As a freshman, the state berth puts Harrelson in rarefied air – something with which she’s had to consistently contend after moving to Durango from South Carolina this year.

“Sarah – she’s a freshman, and just what I’ve seen over the last week since she qualified for state, I’ve seen a huge resurgence in motivation,” Ehlers said.

“A pivotal point for her.”

At 9 a.m. today, Harrelson will challenge Cheyenne Mountain’s Payton Fielding.

“Just to play super consistent,” Harrelson said of her goal for the tournament. “Super psyched.”

Nass, a junior, and Hackett, a sophomore, fall toward the other end of the age spectrum, and Ehlers said the experience of big-time Colorado tennis should squarely land them in the role of team leaders next season, no matter how that lineup shakes out.

“Once again, what a confidence builder for them,” Ehlers said.

That No. 1 doubles duo will take on Kaylee Pott and Annie Hertel of Valor Christian at 9 a.m. today.

As regional runners-up, both of DHS’s first-round matches are against regional champions.

“To play our best is our goal,” Nass said.

“We just want a good match. If we lose, we lose,” Hackett said.

Because the DHS girls drew regional champions, they’ve got a good chance at seeing the playback bracket, if they do lose their respective first-round matches. Players are eliminated if the player or team that beats them loses in the next round.

That, Ehlers said, hopefully will mean more tennis and more experience for the Demons, win or lose.

“They just want to learn everything,” she said. “They’re just ready. They’re ready.”

jsojourner@durangoherald.com

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