Opponents might have to clear their eyes a couple of times when looking across the net at the two doubles teams Durango High School will send to the state tournament. They won’t see double, just two sets of twins wearing Durango red and white.
DHS qualified two doubles teams for state at the 4A Region 1 tournament played last week in Grand Junction. Both teams are made up of twin brothers.
“It’s kind of funny having two sets of twins go up, but it’s pretty cool,” said Rowan Hall of the No. 4 doubles team.
At No. 3 doubles, it is the duo of juniors Hays and Ilias Stritikus. The No. 4 doubles squad is another set of identical twins in juniors Griffin and Rowan Hall, who won their regional championship in a grueling tiebreaker match against a team from Aspen.
“It’s really unique. I feel really lucky to have two sets of twins that are so connected,” said DHS head tennis coach Mike Moriarty. “That connection is what makes them better than they could be separately. They know their strengths and weaknesses. When one has a strength, they can over compensate for the other. They also battle a bit and challenge each other but are more forgiving of their partner’s weaknesses, too.”
Moriarty admits he thought about splitting up the twins on different doubles teams at the start of the season. That had been the case in previous years, but the DHS first-year head coach opted to keep them together. It paid off.
“There are skill level differences between the twins on the team,” he said. “Because of that, I thought about pairing them up with different guys. But, when I saw how well they play together, I couldn’t. Doubles tennis is about communication, positioning and placement of shots. They excel at that, and what makes them a great team is their communication and positioning.”
During a shortened season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the upcoming Colorado High School Activities Association Class 4A boys tennis state tournament will be played in a single-elimination tournament in Pueblo. Regionals also were single elimination, and that put plenty of pressure on every game and set.
The Hall brothers earned a 6-2, 6-0 win against Steamboat Springs in the semifinals before the championship match with Aspen’s Alex Schlosser and Sebastian Pedinielly. The twins went down in the first set but rallied back to win 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 with a 7-4 win in the tiebreaker.
“It was a lot of pressure,” Griffin said. “The championship, they were great players. It was a really fun match. We just had to play through the pressure.”
The Halls will open state Friday morning against Pueblo County’s Ian Gowen and Jonathan Gonzales. A win would get them into the quarterfinals, likely against top-seeded Mareks Zeile and William Writer of Kent Denver.
The Durango has already gotten advice from older brother Aedan Hall, a two-time state qualifier for the Demons.
“We definitely want to win that first match,” Griffin said. “(Aedan) has given us some advice about not letting the pressure get to us, keeping our cool and playing as we normally would.”
A tiebreaker got the Stritikus twins into state, but their triumph came in the semifinals. In the first round, they beat Basalt’s No. 3 doubles team 6-1, 6-0. In the semifinals, it was Vail Christian awaiting. The Stritikus boys would win 3-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-1.
“They got us that first set. The second set tiebreak was huge,” Ilias said. “Part of our chemistry is to know that if the other one misses a ball that it’s OK. It’s about the next point. That mentality got us into a tiebreak. There was a lot of pressure there, but it was fun.
“Being twins, we do have a tremendous advantage with communication and chemistry. It’s actually quite helpful in those moments.”
Aspen’s duo of Quinn McKie and Micky Terkun would beat the Stritikus boys 6-4, 6-4 in the regional championship. But the second-place finish was good enough to get them into the state tournament. They will face Niwot’s Reeves Moor and Maia Heather in the first round and could see Cheyenne Mountain’s strong duo of Tyler Blixt and Hank Walsh in the second round.
“It’s a lot of fun playing with a sibling,” Hays said. “It helps because we know more about how we are going to hit the ball. We can push each other further and be more intense, but we also understand each other’s boundaries.”
The weekend will be the culmination of a short season, but it is the hard work put in over the summer, with both sets of twins regularly playing with each other, that has gotten them here.
“I’m really looking forward to it. I think we’ve had a great season,” Hays said. “I am looking forward to the end. I’m sad it is over, but it was a lot of fun and I’m pretty excited to finish at state.”