It’s a testament to how far Weld County tennis teams have come that so many were represented in the final day of competition Saturday at the Windsor Invitational. It’s a testament to how much further they’ll need to go to compete with the top teams in the state that none came away winners.
Of the eight positions represented by Weld athletes on the final day, just three took part in a finals match — the others were playing for third place. Of those three, none came close to victory.
Coaches for Windsor, University and Greeley West — which each had one representative in a finals match — were quick to point to the great competition on the other side of the net. Indeed, there is something to be said of playing opponents who are shoe-ins for the state tournament.
“This being the third year of the tournament, the first couple of years was kind of getting to know some of the teams around the area,” Windsor coach and tournament organizer Scott Talbot said. “Now that we’re in our third season, we’ve built the tournament up to be a real strong tournament that is basically a mirror image of what a regional format will be so that when our players get to regionals here in another week and a half hopefully they’ll be in a better position to compete and challenge for those state positions.”
Windsor’s Mark Gueswell lost his No. 1 singles final match to Discovery Canyon’s Luke Lorenz, only a guy who has now won all three Windsor Invitationals. Oh, and he’s also ranked in the top 10 in Class 4A in Colorado, Gueswell said.
“Today Mark went up against a kid who has won the tournament the last couple of years and has gone to state the last couple of years,” Talbot said. “We know that he’s playing one of the top players in the state whether we’re talking 4A or 5A.”
Gueswell has improved his game dramatically from last year, although you wouldn’t be able to tell from the final standings in this tournament — he finished second last season as well, again to Lorenz.
Talbot said Gueswell has become more of an attacker this season, something any player at the No.1 singles position has to master.
“Once you get to a certain level... When you are a tennis player starting out — the lower positions — really, if you can keep the ball in play, the other team is going to make the mistakes and give you the win,” Talbot said. “Once you get to a position like Mark is, in order to win in matches like this, you have to be on the offense more often because the players across the net from you are not going to make those mistakes. That just shows the hard work that he’s done over the summer to get himself into this position.”
“My court coverage was very good today,” Gueswell said. “(Lorenz) has an amazing drop shot and I was able to return it... I’ve been working on (being aggressive) all summer. I’m getting to the point where I have to attack, otherwise I’ll just get killed.”
Gueswell is confident going into the regional that he can get one of the top two spots to qualify for state. Gueswell admitted he and others will be playing for second to Niwot so he has his eye on Thompson Valley and Greeley Central — the two teams that could stand between him and his first state tournament berth.
University No. 2 singles player Stefan Gomes can relate. Although he’s not a No. 1 singles player — heck he’s not even a No. 2 singles player, he’s playing up because of an injury — Gomes, like Gueswell saw the gap between himself and his opponent. He ran into a brick wall in his finals match on Court 3. Playing Discovery Canyon’s Brandon Nachbar, Gomes said it was hard to find a hole to exploit.
“I tried to find a weakness,” Gomes said. “I just couldn’t find it.”
Bulldogs coach Mike Usher said the guys at the top of 4A are tough, and Gomes opponent is just one of many who will most likely be at the state tournament in a few weeks.
“These are good teams,” Usher said. “Most of these teams you don’t normally see until you get to state.”
The Bulldogs play in 4A because there is no Class 3A tennis, Usher said. So University is used to being the smallest school at any tournament they attend. Gomes, however, is used to being the biggest player on the court. He said he likes to use his 6-feet, 2-inch frame to his advantage against smaller players. In his finals match, there was no such advantage.
“He was really tall,” Gomes said. “Hard to lob him when he’s (so tall).”
Greeley West’s No. 1 doubles pair of Connor Roche and Russell Fink may have had the worst showing of any Weld position represented on the final day, if you just look at the score. The tandem lost 6-0, 6-0 to brothers Mike and Dave Rosencrans from Legacy High School. But coach Ryan Pace said Roche and Fink played a great match.
“They’re being hard on themselves because of the score,” Pace said. “The team they played has a chance to win the state tournament. They were forced into a lot of errors, they didn’t make a lot of stupid errors. I wouldn’t put the blame as much on them as I would say the other team is just up there. I think just coming off the match they’re being a little hard on themselves.”
Indeed, shortly after the match, Roche was quick to point to areas he and his partner could improve upon, blaming himself for errors. Fink was more analytical, saying the pair could work on volleys and moving their opponents better. Fink said the match was a great building block as the Spartans prepare for conference and regional tournaments in the next few weeks.
“I’m a lot more confident than I was,” said Fink, analyzing the match afterward. “We figured out we can’t make too many mistakes.”
Pace said he wasn’t surprised at the disparate reactions from his top doubles team. That’s they way they are, he said.
“Russell is very even keeled and Connor, he goes from high to low very quickly and we have to keep him steady,” Pace said. “That’s why they’re really good partners. They do kind of bounce off each other.”
Pace said Fink and Roche are the Spartans’ best chance at a state tournament berth. The pair will look to bounce back from a tough match as they look forward to the qualifying tournaments.
Singles — 1. Luke Lorenz (DCHS) def. Mark Gueswell (WHS), 6-2, 6-1; 2. Brandon Nachbar (DCHS) def. Stefan Gomes (UHS), 6-0, 6-1; 3. Baylor May (DCHS) def. Sawyer Macres (MRHS), 6-3, 6-2.
Doubles — 1. Mike Rosencrans & Dave Rosencrans (LHS) def. Russell Fink & Connor Roche (GWHS), 6-0, 6-0; 2. Jared Hockman & Kyle Schutter (CHS) def. Shadrach Karison & Toshio Holmes (LHS), 6-3, 7-6; 3. Jack Nachazel & Case (VCHS) def. Mark Olsen & Brian Heng (LHS), 6-4, 6-0; 4. Jacob Taylor & Grady Egan (MRHS) def. Clay & Nock (VCHS), 6-4, 4-6, 7-6.
3rd place matches
Singles — 1. Erik Ratkelis (VCHS) def. Joel Kraft (UHS), 6-4, 6-1; 2. Austin Gruszczynski (VCHS) def. Stephen Wheeler (WHS), 6-1, 6-0; 3. Casey Krammer (GWHS) def. Carver Payne (VCHS), 7-5, 6-1.
Doubles — 1. Mike Pistilli & Jimmy Amundson (VCHS) def. Zach Bohan & Brody Fretthold (MRHS), 6-1, 6-0; 2. Wedeking & Medearis (VCHS) def. Mitchell Dumler & Connor Yakish (MRHS), 6-2, 6-1; 3. Alex Schwartz & Michael Serna (MRHS) def. Cole Mills & Austin Krings (WHS), 6-2, 6-2; 4. Austin Cole & Sam Karison (LHS) def. Riley Mincic & Michael Swenson (GWHS), 6-2, 6-2.