BOULDER — There are plenty of players who would gladly trade places with Ignatius Castelino.
After all, who would pass up the chance to play for three state championships in the first three years of their high school career?
Castelino has come up empty in his first three tries for the top honor in high school tennis, including this year’s hard fought 6-4, 6-4 loss at No. 1 singles against Cherry Creek’s Zach Fryer. But Castelino has handled it all with class. And his ability to use the losses as a motivating factor has Castelino believing he can still climb to the top of the mountain.
“Obviously I’m a little disappointed, because you never want to lose and winning is always nice,” said Castelino, who has been named the 2013 BoCoPreps.com Player of the Year.
Said Fairview coach Chad Tsuda: “I think the best thing about Ignatius is that he stays positive. For other players, I can see getting really frustrated and down. I’m glad to see that it motivates him and it motivates him to get better and that is pretty much what he has done each year.”
If the Fairview junior has learned anything over the past three seasons, it is how to put the past behind him and learn how to approach the next obstacle with a clear head. And if he plays himself back into the Saturday final at Gates Tennis Center one more time, he’ll be ready.
“Mentally I just have to ignore the past and focus on playing it like any other match and not treating it like a bigger deal,” Castelino said. “I don’t think I normally put any more pressure on myself, but in the finals I did.”
Tsuda, who knows what it takes to win state titles (he won two in his playing days at Fairview), understands his top player is close to breaking through. Over the summer, Castelino punched his ticket to Kalamazoo, Mich., to play in the USTA’s U18-16 National Championship and Tsuda thinks that as Castelino continues to play higher levels of competition, it will only improve his game that much more.
“He’s the type of player that will learn from those matches,” Tsuda said. “Tennis is a long term sport and what I keep reminding him is that, ‘You are going to be in plenty of more finals, and if you lose a couple now, it’s not the end of the world.’ It’s just a great learning experience and you do have to make sure you learn from that and move on to the next tournament.”
In the championship match against Fryer, Castelino’s impressive baseline game kept Fryer on the move and forced the Cherry Creek senior into several unforced errors. But Fryer, who had defeated Castelino during the regular season in three sets, was able to get to the net and make the Fairview standout try and pass him.
“I tried to make a lot of shots going into it and in our first match, I don’t think either one of us were playing our best,” said Fryer, after the match. “I tried to make him hit a lot of shots and I was attacking pretty well and my volleys were working.”
It is still a year away, and with college looming, Castelino is in the early stages of planning for the next step in his tennis career. It something that he wants to do, but as far as suitors — and he knows they are coming — they haven’t started banging down his door just yet.
“I have started to think about it, but I haven’t really focused on where yet,” he said.
Tsuda knows his top player is a Division I caliber player, too.
“I know he want to play D-1 and that’s his goal and mine as well,” Tsuda said. “He’s got all the physical tools, it’s just a matter of putting it all together. Just that one breakthrough tournament is what our goal is for him now.”
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