The Durango High School girls tennis team received a major blow on the first day of the season three weeks ago when it received word that Bayfield High School junior Mavis Edwards, a two-time state placer at No. 1 singles, was sidelined for the year with a shoulder injury that required season-ending surgery.
While senior captain Emma Hackett missed her fellow teammate, she felt she was ready to step into the No. 1 singles role for the Demons. That was evident in Thursday’s 5-2 team win against Montrose at Durango High School.
The senior captain won in straight sets, 6-0, 6-1, which followed a third-place finish at the Western Slope Open last weekend in Grand Junction.
“It’s a new challenge for me playing No. 1 singles, but overall, I’ve enjoyed it so far,” Hackett said. “It’s a new obstacle, but I’m just happy to play a high level of tennis, come in with a positive mindset and play the best that I can.”
The change at the top singles spot is not the only one for the Demons, as they are now playing under new head coach Darren Tarshis, the school’s assistant principal. The Demons were finally able to take the court at the Western Slope Open last weekend, and Tarshis quickly realized how talented the group can be.
“We’ve got an interesting mix in really experienced players and some brave freshmen who come out with absolutely no experience,” Tarshis said. “To have our three seniors as captains, all of whom have so much experience under their belts from a competition side, as well as a leadership side, it’s huge. They’ve really stepped up their leadership roles in the last couple of weeks from organizing team lunches and leading our warmups, they’ve been invaluable.”
Tarshis said Hackett earned the No. 1 spot after her play at the start of the season.
“(Emma) has exemplified being a No. 1 singles player in every way,” Tarshis said. “That’s what I told her when we were in Grand Junction. I was super proud of filling such a tough position and filling such big shoes with a great attitude.”
Alongside Hackett, the team captains include Lily Chick and Emma Jaber. Both qualified for the state championship last year and helped the Demons finish eighth. Chick is the new No. 2 singles player, while Jaber is the top doubles player and was paired up with Laura Clark on Thursday and won in three sets against Jenna Holyfield and Mariah Hokit, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.
“It went well today, and it was a good pairing,” Jaber said about playing with Clark for the first time. “I think we’re both very similar types of players, and I think we just have to work on moving our feet and communicate some little things better. But, as the season goes along, we’ll get more used to each other, and I think it paid it off in the end to be similar.”
Chick also won in straight sets Thursday, 6-4, 6-3. She said that everyone playing up one position from last year will only benefit the team in the long run.
“I think it’s me having to be a little bit better as much as they have to be better,” Chick said. “It applies for our entire team. Everybody who moved up is going to have to face better competition than they did last season, and now we all have to keep playing up and just get better every match.”
[image;4]The final wins Thursday came from the doubles teams, as No. 2 doubles Mia Boughton and Anna Fenberg won 6-1, 7-5, while No. 4 doubles team of Maddy Gleason and Amanda Whidden also won 7-6 (4), 6-1.
With a solid rotation across the board, DHS is looking to win another regional title. Durango is now in Region 8, which is made up of fellow Southwestern League foes Montrose, Grand Junction and Grand Junction Central.
“Coming off of two and a half weeks of practicing in the cafeteria when there was three feet of snow on the ground, I’m really with happy with how they performed today against Montrose and at the Western Slope,” Tarshis said. “I think that the team that we are at the beginning of April will be a different team that you’ll see at the end of April. I’m excited to see what that team looks like.”
DHS will host fellow SWL foe Grand Junction Central at 4 p.m. Friday.