A couple new faces for Greeley West will be heading to the three-day Class 5A Girls Tennis Championships on Thursday.
Luckily, one player will be able to show them the ropes and help with first-match jitters.
The Spartans are sending three positions to state at the Gates Tennis Center in Denver, where the singles matches will begin at 9 a.m. Thursday.
Senior Paige Crews, No. 1 singles, is making her second trip to state while the other three girls are going for the first time.
Crews qualified for state her freshman year and took third place at regionals the next two years. This year, Crews took second after winning her first set in the finals and falling in the second and third.
West received its draws for the tournament Monday and Spartans coach Ryan Pace said he doesn’t know much about the girl Crews is playing, but he thinks she will be OK.
“For us, Paige Crews at 1 singles has the best draw to at least advance and possibly place down at state,” he said.
Crews, who is 16-3 this season, will face Doherty junior Kylie Simons in the first round. Pace said Crews is a rare talent and has a chance to do the best since Elias Lahnert, a West boys tennis player who made it all the way to the quarterfinals in 2010.
“I think Paige even has a chance to outdo Elias on that,” Pace said.
In the other matchups, West sophomore Emily Hopwood (10-8), No. 2 singles, will play Mountain Vista sophomore Kendra Lavallee, and junior Ellie Davidson and sophomore Kayla Hoskins (13-5), No. 2 doubles, will face Fossil Ridge junior Sam Penhale and senior Nicole Newell.
Pace said he is glad these three girls have the chance to play at state and he is even taking a few other players that placed third at regionals just for a learning experience.
“I just hope the spotlight (isn’t) a little too much at first,” he said. “There are gonna be a lot more people watching at Gates Tennis Center, a much different atmosphere of a normal match. But, honestly the three we’ve got going are all good athletes, all play three sports. I think it’s a good experience for any of ‘em (for their) first state experience of any sport, which is really cool.”
Pace said the advice he gave to the doubles team is to talk to each other on the court and block out everything going on around them.
“One thing I have ‘em do is slow the game down, really take yourself away from a situation,” he said. “Our girls do a great job with that. … I don’t think our girls are gonna have an issue with it, but again, it’s that first time, so we need to get rid of the jitters and the nerves right away.”
Davidson and Hoskins might be especially nervous because they are playing the top seed in the first round, Fossil Ridge.
“If we didn’t get through the first round there, we know we have playbacks, so I’ve kinda told them, ‘you know what, go in, leave it all on the court. You’ve got nothing to lose at that point,’ ” Pace said. “Our thing is … you’re playing with house money. If you can start getting them down early, go for it. If you have opportunities, go for it. And, worse-case scenario, you lose and get into the playback bracket.”
However, Pace said the Spartans could pull off a huge upset. In the regular season, Hoskins and Davidson beat a Fossil Ridge doubles team 6-2, 6-7 (3-7), 6-1, albeit not the same team the Spartans will face at state.
Pace said Davidson and Hoskins also have a shot if they get under Fossil Ridge’s skin early.
“Good things can happen. If it just continues, the other team can melt down — I’ve seen it at state numerous times,” Pace said. “ … We’ll try a few different strategies and see what happens.”