Air Academy rolls to victory in its boys' tennis tourney
Usually when you have three No. 1’s you have none — ask last year’s Broncos.
But for the Air Academy boys’ tennis team, it was anyone and the other team was done.
Saturday, the Kadets wrapped up their own tournament after beating Pueblo West in the finals of the Kadet Court Kickoff, as all three of their singles players dominated.
“I don’t know where our singles guys will end up in their positions,” said Air Academy coach Ron Gorr of Kollen Kaltenbacher who played No. 1, Taylor Ball (No. 2) and Keenan Kaltenbacher (No. 3). “They are all playing very, very well and it is too close to call right now.”
The Kadets bullied their opponents through two days. Every sigh, mutter and dropped head was seen crosscourt.
In fact, they lost only two of their 28 matches — both by Orion Garrett Johnson.
The gangly, shaggy-haired kid took off his thin-rimmed glasses, wiped the lenses and put them back on. He couldn’t believe he was in the right place.
The junior was called up from jayvee Saturday morning after Keenan Kaltenbacher sliced his finger on a vase the night before.
“(Johnson) played amazing,” Gorr said. “Here is a kid who is on jayvee, not even our second-varsity team, and he takes the first kid he plays into a tiebreaker in the third set and then holds his own in the finals.”
And even though he lost his first (7-6, 4-6, 12-10) and his second (6-2, 6-2) match, his play may have told more about the Kadets than any of their straight-set victories.
“We are very, very deep,” Gorr said. “That’s our strength and it’s tough to put one ahead of another. It’s a very fun problem to have.”
About a mile west of the guards with automatic weapons at the entrance of the Air Force Academy, Kollen Kaltenbacher and Ball made quick work of Pueblo West.
Ball lost two games all tournament and capped it off with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Christian Morrison.
“I felt great today,” he said, “and played great.”
Ball, a sophomore, is returning to singles play after a two-year hiatus. He was burned out and said he couldn’t take the daily pressure anymore — but now, that’s all in the past.
“I’m ready now,” he said, “excited to be back.”
Kollen, a senior, followed suit and closed the tournament with a win over Colin Casias, 6-0, 6-2.
“I got to take this and just get better,” he said.
But did he do enough to keep his No. 1 spot? Were his forehands crippling and his backhands crisp enough? Who was better between Ball and the Kaltenbachers? Rock, paper, scissors for it?
“It doesn’t matter,” Kollen said. “What matters is that we are a brotherhood — well, I do want to be (No. 1) — but team comes first.”
Ball agreed and went as far to embrace the No. 2 spot.
“I like being No. 2,” he said. “Being (No. 1) to me isn’t important to me. I think I can do a lot of damage at No. 2 in state.”
Air Academy plays six times in the next two weeks including a date with returning 4A champion Cheyenne Mountain on Friday.