With a new coach at the helm and the full roster yet to take shape, Saturday’s season-opening match was a learning experience for the Durango High School boys tennis team, as it lost 7-0 to Aspen High School in Grand Junction.
The Demons return four state qualifiers from last year’s squad, as Aedan Hall, Calan Barnhardt, Andy Rodriguez and Cater Ward all will look to make a return trip back to Pueblo in October. However, on Saturday, it was a different story, as much of the Demons’ roster were unable to make the trip, and the lineup consisted of one senior, two juniors and the rest were underclassmen. Aspen won the Class 4A Region 8 championship last season, as Durango finished in second.
New Durango head coach Todd Jolley took over for Alan Batiste, who decided to focus solely on leading the DHS boys basketball program. Jolley serves as advisor for El Diablo newspaper and teaches social studies. It is his first season as head coach.
“Today was a really good learning experience for us,” Jolley said. “We had a very young team out there today, and a lot of kids who will be in the lineup in the next couple of weeks, are just getting started, some haven’t been to enough practices yet to earn a match. The lineup will change significantly, but it was a great opportunity to get the freshmen a chance to play. We dropped every set, but all of the players hit their personal goal for the match, so that was something to celebrate. They knew what we were getting into, and competed hard.”
The Skiers won all seven matches on Saturday, as Aspen’s No. 1 singles player, Christian Kelly, topped Elias Fiddler 6-1, 6-1. At No. 2 singles, Alex Mosher beat Barnhart 6-1, 6-0 and Luke Tralins also won at No. 3 singles, as he defeated Carter Ward 6-0, 6-0.
In doubles play, Aspen’s Liam Sunkel and Georges Ghali defeated DHS’ Sam Rodgers and Kai Showland, 6-0, 6-1.
Moving forward, Jolley sees plenty of potential in this year’s team, and knows that with more match experience, the Demons will rebound from their season-opening loss.
“I learned that they’ve got a lot of heart and effort, and the talent is definitely there,” Jolley said. “They had 100% integrity and sportsmanship the entire time they were out there today; everyone played their heart out the entire time. That tells me everything I need to know about them, not just as tennis players, but as people, too. They’re going to put in the time and effort that they need to be really successful.”
Durango will compete in the Lowry Bishop Tournament, hosted by Fruita Monument High School Friday and Saturday at Canyon View Park in Grand Junction.