Vail Christian boys tennis sends five players to state tourney
Otsuki, Fischer, Jarnot and Nabonsals to play in Pueblo this week
For the Vail Daily
The Vail Christian Saints boys tennis team traveled to Grand Junction to participate in the 2021 4A Region 8 tennis tournament on Thursday and Friday. In high school tennis, a varsity team consists of eleven players, with three singles players and four doubles teams.
In the heat of August, the high schoolers battled it out for their spot on the roster. The top three players settle into the singles spots in order, and the next eight players are partnered together to form the doubles teams.
The Vail Christian team is the only one in the area and is open to all high school boys in the valley. This year’s varsity squad is made up of six Battle Mountain Huskies and five Saints and is coached by JD Webster and Derek Fischer.
Aside from the Saints, Region 8 includes Grand Junction, Grand Junction Central, Durango, Aspen, Steamboat Springs and Basalt. Each line was seeded for the tournament based on regular season results. Both the regional champion and runner-up from each line will travel to Pueblo next weekend for the 4A state tournament.
Vail Christian was spearheaded all season long by Battle Mountain junior Kai Otsuki at the No. 1 singles spot. Thanks to his success in the regular season, Otsuki entered regionals as the top seed of the top line, earning a first round bye. He then cruised past Durango on Thursday afternoon to reach the regional championship.
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Early Friday morning, Otsuki faced Grand Junction’s top player with a state tournament ticket on the line. Otsuki fell behind early, dropping the first set 1-6 and then trailing 0-3 in set two of the best-of-three-set match. However, he then flipped a switch, winning six of the next seven games to take the second set and force a winner-take-all third.
After a back-and-forth set, the two players found themselves knotted at six games each, meaning a seven-point tiebreaker would be the deciding factor. With each point carrying intense weight and pressure, Otsuki emerged victorious, 7-4, in the tiebreaker to claim the No. 1 singles regional title and book his trip to state by a final score of 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4).
At No. 2 singles, Battle Mountain freshman Wyat Fischer began his first regional tournament with consecutive wins over Durango and Steamboat to put himself in the championship match. Just like Otsuki, Fischer battled Grand Junction on Friday morning. Despite a hard-fought effort, Fischer fell to the Tigers’ No. 2 singles player by a narrow score of 7-5, 6-4, but still reached the state tournament thanks to his second-place finish.
Moving down the roster, the Saints were represented by Battle Mountain senior Nate Nabonsal at the No. 3 singles spot. Nabonsal defeated Grand Junction Central for the second time this season to move into the second round, where he fell in a tough matchup against Grand Junction. This moved him to the playback bracket where he dominated Durango to earn the chance to play Steamboat Springs for second place. On Friday afternoon, Nabonsal battled through inclement weather to defeat Steamboat Springs 6-0, 7-6, and secure his spot at the state tournament. Vail Christian and Grand Junction claimed all six singles spots from Region 8.
Moving to the doubles play, No. 1 doubles began with a victory over Durango but then fell to Grand Junction Central in the second round. The Saints’ top doubles team then came out victorious over Basalt in the playback bracket to meet up with Aspen in the third-place match, where they were defeated to conclude an impressive season.
Battle Mountain seniors Elliott Jarnot and Alex Nabonsal, twin of No. 3 singles player Nate Nabonsal, both went into their final regional tournament seeking their first state tournament appearance at the No. 2 doubles line. The Huskies boys split their first two matches against the Grand Junction teams, then beat Durango for the chance to play Aspen to go to state. In an intense battle, Jarnot and Nabonsal were able to overcome the Skiers in three sets and secure a trip to state by a score of 6-2, 4-6, 6-1.
The Saints’ third and fourth doubles lines were made up of Vail Christian underclassmen who did not advance to states but will have more chances in the coming years.
As a team, the Vail Christian Saints took second place in the region, trailing only Grand Junction High School. This is the second time the Saints have mounted a second-place finish since the team moved to Vail Christian from Vail Mountain School in 2019.
“I’m so proud of all of our players and coaches. Everyone worked so hard as a team to get these wins. I’m excited to go to state and compete for the championship! The future is bright for VCHS tennis,” said coach JD Webster.
The four lines will head to Pueblo this week for the state tournament from Thursday to Saturday. The Saints will be represented by Kai Otsuki, Wyat Fischer, Nate Nabonsal, Alex Nabonsal and Elliott Jarnot.