PUEBLO — The Alexander Dawson boys tennis team’s last hopes of advancing past Day 2 of the Class 4A state tournament rested with one family.
The three Smith brothers — Carson, Austen and Ryan — were the only Mustangs to either make it to the championship semis or earn a playback match on Friday at Pueblo City Park.
When the day was over, only Carson was left standing.
Carson lost to Niwot’s Spencer Lang in the No. 3 singles semifinals, 6-2, 6-1. After dropping into the consolation bracket, he played an inspired match against Air Academy’s Kennan Kaltenbacher.
At first glance, the consolation semifinal between the 6-foot-3 Carson and the Kadets freshman smacked of David vs. Goliath. But Kaltenbacher’s quickness and deceptively powerful forehand gave Smith trouble.
“He has a great game,” Smith said. “Great forehand, solid backhand, great volleys. He’s really quick.”
Smith’s initial strategy of playing the ball back to Kaltenbacher and waiting for a mistake failed.
“He ripped winner off those shots,” Smith said. “I knew I had to do a little more with it. I decided I would go for a little more of my forehands, and my backhands, with short and sharp shots in the service box and mixing that up with deep.”
By the end Smith was throwing out slices, top spins, everything he had at Kaltenbacher. Nearly every game was close, but Smith pulled out the 6-2, 6-4 victory.
The Mustangs junior will face Kent Denver’s Brendan Soane in the third-place match today.
Austen and Ryan Smith, who pair together at No. 1 doubles, defeated the D’Evelyn duo in the consolation quarterfinals, 6-1, 6-0. Despite losing 6-4, 6-2 to Niwot’s Matt Londa and Connor Mulshine in the next round, the pair felt it was their best match of the season.
“It felt great,” Austen Smith said. “All of our strokes were connecting. Our minds were in sync. We knew what our partner was doing so we could counter what our opponents would do with our partner’s movements.”
For Ryan Smith, it was a good day.
“It was a great outing,” he said. “I enjoyed it. I know my brothers enjoyed it. I know the team enjoyed it. We had a lot of fun. Though some of us didn’t do as we would have liked, I think we all enjoyed the time here.”
TRACK TO THE FUTURE: Longmont exchange student David de la Rosa Menéndez lost to Mullen’s Connor Arend, 6-1, 6-0 in the consolation quarterfinals in his last match as a Trojan.
But of Longmont’s four remaining players in Friday’s playback rounds, three of them figure to play major roles for the Trojans for years to come.
Trojans sophomores Cameron Yee and Erik Schulze finished 2-2 at No. 4 doubles and were eliminated in Friday’s consolation semifinals, 7-5, 6-0, at the hands of Kent Denver’s Andrew Thompson and Julian Schwab.
“It was good to come play some competitive teams that really put up a fight,” Schulze said.
And it was nice to beat a few of them, too.
“It was good to win and it was good to play well the last game of the season,” Yee said.
At No. 3 singles, freshman Jake Fell lost his playback to Air Academy’s Kennan Kaltenbacher, 6-3, 6-0. It was good experience for the young Fell, who may have to move up in the lineup to replace de la Rosa Menéndez and graduating senior Sean Cowie.
“Now I know what the competition’s like and what everyone else is like so I know what I’m gonna have to do,” Fell said. “I’m hoping to go to state again and do really well.”
STIFLED COMEBACK: Silver Creek’s Scott Baldwin and Patrick Sullivan, the only Raptors remaining on Friday, lost to Aspen’s Steve Anderson and Kalen Gabow in the No. 2 doubles consolation quarterfinals, 1-6, 6-3, 3-6.
“We went really unfocused in the first set and pulled it together in the second set,” Baldwin said. “They just played well in the third set. We had some mistakes we shouldn’t have made and we lost.”
Anderson and Gabow took an early 4-1 lead in the third set. Despite a rally, the Raptors couldn’t keep it going.
“I would have liked to have gone on to the next round,” Sullivan said. “I was a little disappointed.”
Brad Cochi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.