PUEBLO — Longmont High tennis player Jake Fell thought he had a strategy lined out that would earn him his first-ever win in his fourth and final trip to the Class 4A state tournament. He was wrong.
Fell’s backup plan, however, turned out to hold the key to state tournament success on a dreary Thursday that was shortened by heavy rain.
Facing Greeley Central’s Daniel Crews, who defeated the Trojans senior in three sets during the regular season, Fell adapted his attack on the fly and never looked back on the way to a 6-3, 6-0 win in the first round of the No. 1 singles bracket.
“My game plan was to go to his backhand and I don’t know why it took me three games to realize it, but his forehand is weaker than his backhand,” Fell said. “I just hit everything to his forehand after that and I don’t think I gave him more than five backhands the rest of the match. That’s my first win. I knew I had a good chance this year and I was nervous but once I changed my game plan and started working for it a bit more it turned out great.”
The Fell-Crews match was one of just 10 singles matches that were completed before heavy rain suspended play from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. A total of 25 of 56 first-round matches were completed. Play will resume at 9 a.m. Friday.
It was a quick 0-3 deficit in the first set that prompted Fell to reevaluate his strategy against Crews. Once he did, Fell swept the remaining 12 games to win the match. Fell’s first state tournament victory sets up a familiar second-round matchup with tournament favorite Spencer Lang from Niwot.
In seven head-to-head contests throughout the two St. Vrain School District opponents’ parallel prep careers, Fell has won just nine games against Niwot’s top player. Lang defeated Fell 6-4, 6-0 in the first round of the 2011 state tournament when both were freshmen and also beat him as recently as last Thursday at the 4A Region 5 tournament.
While Fell’s prospects for winning the second round match aren’t good, Lang’s likelihood of reaching the No. 1 singles championship match should pull Fell through into the playback rounds for a shot at third place.
“If I lose to him, I’m hoping he can carry me through,” Fell said. “He’s playing amazing right now, so he gives me a good chance to play for third, which is exciting to me.”
Lang, who placed third at No. 1 singles last season, cruised past D’Evelyn’s Tom Hudson, 6-1, 6-1 in the first round on Thursday. On the weather-shortened day, the Cougars advanced all three singles players to the championships quarterfinals before rain halted play for good at 5:15 p.m.
At No. 2 singles, Cougars junior Allen Fu defeated D’Evelyn’s Sam Hoelscher and Niwot’s No. 3 singles player Max Petrak defeated Vanguard’s Tristan Ziegler 6-0, 6-2.
“I was really happy to get through this match,” Petrak said. “It will be great to come in tomorrow morning and not have to start in the middle of a match. It’s going to be a good tournament and we’ve got a good shot at it going forward. The matches will all get tougher so we’ll have to keep playing better.”
The Dawson School Mustangs, who qualified six of seven positions, advanced on player to the championship quarterfinals on Thursday. Senior Zach Rinard led the way at No. 3 singles, defeating Pueblo Central’s Adam Guerrero, 6-3, 6-3 in a match that began at 9 a.m. and eventually ended at 5:05 p.m.
“It was interesting with the wind and the rain,” Rinard said. “We started out 1-1 and then got delayed, so that added a mental game to it. He had some great shots and he was a great baseline player so I really needed to get him off that baseline and focus on that.”
Mustangs freshman Connor Larson fell to Kent Denver’s Casey Ross, 6-1, 6-0 at No. 2 singles.
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Class 4A boys tennis state tournament
At Pueblo City Park
Team scores — Kent Denver 4, Colorado Academy 3, Niwot 3, Air Academy 3, Lewis-Palmer 2, Greeley Central 2, Aspen 2, Mullen 1, Longmont 1, Dawson School 1, Pueblo Central 1, Canon City 1, Durango 1.
No. 1 singles — Keenan Kaltenbacher, Air Academy, def. Dillon Leasure, Aspen, 6-7, 6-0, 6-1; Fred Edwards, Durango, def. Aaron Weil, Mullen, 6-1, 6-3; Willie Gold, Kent Denver, def. Jameson Lumpkin, Thompson Valley, 6-3, 6-3; Nolan Rademacher, Lewis-Palmer, def. Jan Seno, Sand Creek, 4-6, 7-5, 6-1; Mac Mease, Colorado Academy, def. Shea Claflin, Canon City, 6-2, 6-2; Dakota Burns, Pueblo Central, def. Jimmy Amundson, Valor Christian, 6-0, 6-2; Spencer Lang, Niwot, def. Tom Hudson, D’Evelyn, 6-1, 6-1; Jake Fell, Longmont, def. Daniel Crews, Greeley Central, 6-3, 6-0.
No. 2 singles — Allen Fu, Niwot, def. Sam Hoelscher, D’Evelyn, 6-3, 6-0; Zach Fluck, Canon City, def. Dustin Bohuslavschi, Discovery Canyon, 6-1, 6-3; Akmal Sultanbeav, Lewis-Palmer, def. Yanno Fernandez, Fountain Valley, 6-4, 6-1; Casey Ross, Kent Denver, def. Connor Larson, Dawson School, 6-1, 6-0; Fletcher Kerr, Colorado Academy, def. Troy De Jong, Steamboat Springs, 6-0, 6-2; Joseph Martinez, Greeley Central, def. Robert Huthoefer, Vanguard, 6-1, 6-3; Henry Godfrey, Aspen, def. Lain Roy, Palmer Ridge, 6-2, 6-3; Stefan Orton-Urbina, Air Academy, def. Jesus Quinones, Northridge, 6-1, 6-0.
No. 3 singles — Jack Moldenhauer, Kent Denver, def. Keita Kadokura, Fountain Valley, 6-1, 6-1; Connor Clancy, Greeley Central, def. Grant Swain, Mullen, 6-3, 6-4; Zach Rinard, Dawson School, def. Adam Guerrero, Pueblo Central, 6-3, 6-3; Noah Forman, Colorado Academy, def. Alijah Konikowski, Durango, 6-0, 6-0; Neil Orton, Air Academy, def. Henry Raeder, Evergreen, 6-1, 6-3; Max Petrak, Niwot, def. Tristan Ziegler, Vanguard, 6-0, 6-2.
No. 1 doubles — Dylan Behr/Gordon Carr, Aspen, def. Nathan Stauffer/Michael Craig, Littleton, 6-2, 6-3; Kevin Adams/Niko Hereford, Kent Denver, def. Jack Kochenberger/Sam Moore, Pueblo Central, 6-2, 6-1; Jack Erdle/Mitch Erdle, Mullen, def. Kevin Kalkus/Caleb Sanders, D’Evelyn, 6-1, 6-2.