Just when it appeared the Durango High School boys tennis team would not be participating at the 2019 Colorado High School Activities Association’s Class 4A state tournament, Aedan Hall and Kai Skowlund had one last match in them.
The No. 1 doubles team at DHS squared off against Vail Christian’s Nate Anderson and Nate Nabonsal in a playback match for their chance at state. They recorded their biggest victory of the season, winning in three sets, 6-4, 4-6 and 6-4.
“It was a super-tight match, but also some of the best tennis we played all season,” Hall said.
Skowlund knew that if they played their cards right, they would get their shot to play at state.
“We definitely had all of the aspects of our game put together,” Skowlund said. “We were doing really well with our serves, our ground strokes were really good and, most importantly, we really had our game strategy together. We were able to play beyond the fundamentals.”
The duo are the lone representatives from DHS, as No. 1 singles player Elias Fiddler and No. 3 doubles team of Sam Rodgers and Charlie Michel came up short last Friday at the Class 4A Region 8 tournament in Grand Junction, after finishing third in their respective brackets.
Hall and Skowlund beat Steamboat Springs’ top doubles team for the third time this season 6-4, 7-5 in their opening match, but lost to Aspen’s Lukee Tralins and Georges Ghali, 6-0, 6-1. In the first playback round, they beat Basalt’s No. 1 duo, 6-4, 7-5.
Tralins and Ghali took out Anderson and Nabonsal for the regional title, and since Durango had not played Vail Christian yet, the playback match opportunity arose, and the duo took their chance.
“The challenge match came up, and everyone was super tired,” said DHS head coach Todd Jolley. “(Vail Christian) was getting frustrated, and double-faulted way too many times for that level. I’m proud of Aedan and Kai for battling the whole match. It came after a super long day of tennis, and they went out there and performed brilliantly.”
Skowlund and Hall had played in a number of three-set matches already this season, and when the state-qualifying match went to a winner-take-all third set, Hall said he was ready.
“Normally, we can capitalize on the third set,” said Hall, who will be returning to state for a second consecutive season. “If we can bring it to the tiebreak, we can take advantage of it. When our match against Vail Christian came to the third set, all we said was, ‘We’ve got this.’ That was it, and we went on to win.”
While the duo have succeeded in tiebreakers partly because of their play on the court, Jolley said their mental fortitude late in matches has also been impressive.
“What changed for them was their mental game and their discipline,” Jolley said. They were really dedicated, taking things more seriously than anyone else at every step of the way. They don’t get frustrated in the middle of the match when they’re down. They just fight harder and take it point by point. Aedan and Kai have one of the best mental games of anybody on the team.”
Come Thursday, the duo will have a tough opponent in the first round, Jack Domich and Casey Klutznick of Kent Denver. Skowlund said that no matter the result, he is looking forward to competing at a high level, and he believes that with effective communication and chemistry, the duo will prove to be a tough opponent.
“I’m looking forward to playing new teams for sure,” Skowlund said. “No matter what the outcome is, as long as we play our game, any time we can do that, we’re always happy. As long as we feel we’re playing well, that’s definitely a positive outcome. Our communication at the net has been really good all year, we always know our spots, and if we can keep playing like we have, I think we can do well at state.”