AURORA | Laura Jones just got off the tennis court from a summer camp at Regis Jesuit High School when she heard the good news: tennis is back.
The longtime Regis Jesuit boys tennis coach — who has guided the program to three Class 5A state championships since she took over in 2010, including the last two — desperately wanted to have a season this fall for her seniors and her wish came true Wednesday when the Colorado High School Activities Association announced plans for boys tennis and softball to begin Aug. 10.
Jones still needed to come up to speed with the tweaks in schedule and format made by the state’s governing body to ensure the safest level of play in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, but just to know that her team would be able to take the courts was enough.
“We’ve been riding with blind faith and so it’s so refreshing to know our season is going to come to fruition,” Jones told the Sentinel. “I’m so happy.”
Jones — who was supposed to coach the Regis Jesuit girls team in the spring when COVID-19 wiped out the season — was especially glad that program staples such as Morgan Schilling (last season’s No. 1 singles state champion) and Grigor Karakelyan — part of a strong group of seniors-to-be — would get their fourth varsity seasons and might be able to finished their careers with more hardware.
The path to another championship has been altered, including a 25 percent reduction in the number of matches teams will play during the season, which cuts the length of the season by roughly three weeks. Jones had yet to figure out how an original schedule that included a full Continental League slate along with appearances in the Western Slope Invitational and Cherry Creek Invitational would be altered.
“We’ve gone from a marathon to a sprint,” Jones said.
For the postseason, regional tournaments will be single-elimination, with only the champion and runner-up at each of the three singles positions and four doubles positions advancing to the state tournament, which is also going to a single-elimination format.
Traditionally, the top four placers at each position have earned medals at the state tournament, but this season, only state champion and runner-up will be awarded. The 5A state tournament is scheduled for Sept. 25-26.
Temperature checks, social distancing and other protocols will be used to help keep players healthy and Regis Jesuit has implemented them all over the summer. All players have bottles of hand sanitizer attached to their equipment bags, while Jones has marked out socially-distanced spaces outside the school’s courts and done away with team huddles.
Besides Schilling and Karakelyan (who finished second at No. 1 singles last season along with partner Conor Kaczmarczyk), Regis Jesuit’s senior group should also included Jack Carbone and Ryan McCarthy — who placed third at No. 2 doubles last season, while state champions are expected to return in Andy Schuiling (No. 2 singles), Cameron Kruep (No. 3 singles) and Alexander Samuelson (No. 4 doubles).
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports