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Boys' tennis preview: With eight state qualifiers back, Air Academy done playing nice
Cheyenne Mountain remains the standard, but Kadets will be strong
Ron Gorr’s Air Academy boys’ tennis team seems perfectly cast for a cheesy sports flick.
Last year they finished a place off the state podium, but won the Sportsmanship Award. At practice each player asks you how your day has been, gives credit where credit is due and compliments all their opponents. And as for their goals, they are wholesomely cliché — emphasizing playing the “right way,” and maintaining the philosophy of being a “brotherhood.”
But don’t be fooled.
Their polite demeanor will be feared across 4A this year.
They return eight seniors and eight state qualifiers from last year’s team that finished fourth in 4A state.
It’s a team primed to make noise in the tournament and follow up an enormous athletic year for Air Academy, which included an area-high four state team titles last school year.
That means though, that “every one of our guys will have to play out of their minds,” Gorr says.
And it starts in their own city.
“We’ll play the right way and we’ll play at a very high level,” said last year’s No. 1 singles player Kollen Kaltenbacher who has nine “brothers” on the team and a real one too. “But what drives us as players, is that we want to beat Cheyenne Mountain.”
It will be tough.
The Indians boys’ team has dominated the state, winning five of the past seven 4A titles.
Cheyenne Mountain coach Dave Adams has prided himself on grouping some of the best doubles teams in the state for more than two decades, but this year he’ll have to rebuild them all from scratch.
Still, the Indians return seven state qualifiers.
Gazette Player of the Year Stephen Moore is back at No. 1 singles after finishing third in state last year (and that was with a fractured left wrist).
Billy Fielding, who also finished third, is back at No. 2 and Andrew Venner is back at No. 3.
So, Air Academy will need some major surprises to eclipse them — and Gorr knows that better than anyone.
“You know I am not defining success on beating Cheyenne Mountain,” said Gorr whose team was swept head-to-head and in regionals by the Indians last season. “They are so good and you don’t just go ‘yeah we are going to beat Cheyenne Mountain.’ I mean it’s not even a rivalry between us because they beat us every time.”
The Kadets’ singles positions aren’t set in stone yet as Kollen Kaltenbach, Taylor Ball and Keenan Kaltenbacher may be playing for position “until midseason” says their coach.
But while many of the players’ ranks on the team are up in the air, their mind-sets aren’t.
“We’ve never beat (Cheyenne Mountain) since I have been here. And we’ll have to do that if we want state,” Kollen Kaltenbacher said. “I’ve played (Moore) three times and he’s beat me every time. Last time I focused on just getting the ball in play, but it wasn’t good enough (losing 6-0, 6-1). So this year I need to be better.
“We need to be better.”