Over the past few years, the Peak to Peak boys tennis program has improved step-by-step into one of the better teams in the BoCoPreps.com area, and in Colorado's Class 4A. With a couple of top-notch junior singles players at the top of their ladder in 2017, the Pumas are poised to make some noise at the Class 4A state tournament and potentially end up with a state champion this year or the next.
The Pumas have shown well at the Centaurus Invitational and Longmont Invitational already this season, and with a few weeks until regional tournaments, I caught up with head coach Eric Farran on Saturday to check in on how he feels things are going.
Question: The Peak to Peak boys tennis program has really improved over the past three or four years. Things seem to be going particularly well for the Pumas so far in 2017. Could you please give me your general thoughts on the season with the home stretch coming up?
Farran: When I inherited the program, I had to change the culture completely. Every year, it has been about making incremental improvements. People like Zhan Zu (No. 1 singles in 2014) helped a lot. Now we have Brett (Finan) and Teo (Cariov), and Ishan (Kumar) is having some success, and every year we have a few more players.
Last year, getting our four doubles team into state was really good for our program because it shows how goals are attainable. The program absolutely has changed.
You guys have a pair of juniors in Brett Finan and Teo Cariov who are up there with the top one-two punches in the state. What does it do for your team to have those two guys together at practices?
It's good for all our players because they get to see players on a daily basis that they can try to emulate. If they don't play at a club or they don't play at a club with very good juniors, they don't get a chance to see really good tennis. Frankly, they're not watching it on television and there is no men's team at CU, so they don't have a lot of opportunities to see what it looks like.
Having guys like Brett and Teo playing one another gives them a chance to see guys working really hard at their game. They see the footwork, they ask questions like, 'Why are they grunting?' and they also get to see that there's no shortcut to that success. I mean, these guys are playing five hours a day. They work hard. It's not because they use a certain kind of racquet or they have a certain pair of shoes on. They're hitting a lot of balls and they're doing it all the time.
Like we've mentioned already, Brett and Teo kind of dominate the headlines everywhere you guys go. But who are some of the other guys that have helped provide the depth you guys now have that has enabled you to score more highly as a team in tournament formats?
They're all guys who have developed over the past few years. Ishan (No. 3 singles) is a big one and a senior. Ryan Coates is another, and Tai Tran. We also have a couple freshmen that I've known for less than a month who are already getting results and getting their confidence up. They're starting to think a little differently about strokes and approach the game differently. We've got a real good group of guys and I'm excited to get to work with them.
Given how much the boys tennis program has consistently improved over the past several years, what is the primary team goal for this season?
More people at state. That's always the goal, but we want to get more people down there. And not ever being satisfied. Once we get more people at state, we want to start winning matches and then going deeper into the tournament. I want us to be disruptive there. I want us to take points away from the teams that win consistently there.
The guys get excited by that. Brett's first year down there, he knocked an older kid out in the first round and it kept that team from being able to win the tournament. Getting the chance to impact the tournament like that, that was fun.
With that goal in mind, Peak to Peak is one of the teams in a tough Region 5 tournament that includes Niwot and a bunch of other tough teams. That's going to make it tough to get a lot of guys through to the 4A state tournament. How are you guys approaching that challenge?
I don't plan so much for that, just focus on the day-to-day and continuing to work hard. Right now, we're focusing on getting reps in and getting matches in. Tournaments like the Centaurus Invitational and the Longmont Invitational are great because our guys get to play a bunch of matches in a few days and get to see different players.
Deliberately preparing for Niwot, or some of those other players, I don't really think about it too much. I think that if you're putting in the work and doing the right things day-in and day-out, then they should be prepared. We don't really want to get in our heads about that stuff, either. I'm a big believer in managing your own side of the court and focusing on the things you can control yourself. Everything else will work out.