PUEBLO – Air Academy was easy to spot at the 4A boys' state tennis tournament at City Park on Thursday. Not only were the Kadets players and coaches wearing pink tie-dyed shirts, but assistant coach Tim Treat was sporting a pink Mohawk.
“I had the blond Mohawk for regionals and since we were doing the shirts for breast cancer, I thought I'd go all out and rock the hot pink Mohawk,” Treat said.
“In addition to being the reason we're good at tennis, Tim is also a little bit of the emotional sparkplug of our team,” said head coach Ron Gorr, who also gave much credit to Treat's offseason program.
The Kadets were also easy to spot on the tournament brackets, as all of their seven positions won in the first round and four of those advanced to Friday's semifinals. Qualifying for the semifinals were Keenan Kaltenbacher at No. 3 singles, Jeff Milliman and Kent Schaller at No. 2 doubles, Naish Gaubats and Everett Valtin at No. 3 doubles and Matt Ryan and Michael Sheldon at No. 4 doubles.
“Every point counts, no matter if it's (No. 1) singles or (No. 4) doubles,” Ryan said. “We just need to do our job and help the team win however we can.”
Even the three who were beaten on Thursday can still score more team points. Once the semifinals are completed, the players who were beaten by finalists are reseeded into a playback bracket to compete for third and fourth place – each of which earns valuable team points.
"We did pretty well; we advanced four of the seven and in the three spots that we're awaiting playbacks, we've got a pretty good chance,” Gorr said. “We've got a chance to come back and maybe get some damage done tomorrow.”
With Air Academy having already dropped its quarterfinal matches at Nos. 1 and 2 singles, it was left to Kaltenbacher (whose brother Kollen plays No. 1 singles) to be the first Kadet to advance. He took the first set from Niwot's Allen Fu 6-4 and then broke service in the second set's first game. Another service break in the fifth game boosted Kaltenbacher to a 6-2 win and a date in the semis.
With four in the semifinals and the others awaiting playbacks, Air Academy is hoping to improve upon its fourth-place finish at last year's state tournament.
“We're where we hoped we'd be today,” Gorr said. “It would have been nice to grab a couple of those tougher wins, but we faced some very good players today.
“Now we've just got to get everyone playing on Saturday, one match or another. If we get everybody playing that day, we've done a pretty good thing.”