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Girls' tennis: Colorado Springs-area teams missing pair of aces

March 4, 2014 Updated: March 4, 2014 at 8:18 pm
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Pine Creek's Nicole Kalhorn returns a volley against Mountain Range's Katie Kirby during their No. 1 singles match Thursday, May 9, 2013, at the first day of the Colorado State 5A Girls Tennis Championships at the Gates Tennis Center in Denver. Kalhorn won 6-1, 6-3. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

In the past two seasons, Nicole Kalhorn of Pine Creek and Payton Fielding of Cheyenne Mountain made big impressions in the Colorado girls' tennis world.

Kalhorn finished runner-up twice in the 5A state tournament at No. 1 singles, while Fielding captured a pair of 4A state titles at No. 2 singles.

Just don't look for their legacies to grow in 2014, at least not at the high school level.

Neither will compete. Kalhorn has concentrated on playing tennis full time at the Las Vegas-based No Quit Tennis Academy. Fielding is spending her junior year studying abroad in France.

Longtime Pine Creek tennis coach Dave Lehman wasn't terribly surprised by Kalhorn's decision to compete at a higher level before college. The youngest of three siblings, she had already spent a good chunk of her life traveling and watching sister Simone and brother Ashton do great things on the court.

And they earned college scholarships to Syracuse and Bradley, respectively.

"She saw this as an opportunity, and I don't blame her for taking it," Lehman said. "It's a way for her to get that constant training and work on her national ranking and get seen by college coaches."

Cheyenne Mountain coach Dave Adams just isn't sure if skipping the team experience in high school is the best way to grow as a player.

"I'm totally against that," said Adams, who said many of Colorado's top finishers from last season, mainly in 5A, are not playing high school tennis this season. "I've seen kids who have done that, and they never learn how to be part of a team. Playing for your school is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Sure, Lehman will miss not having to worry about whom to pencil in at No. 1 singles for his Eagles team. But as he teaches life lessons in addition to tennis strategy, Lehman embraces the future with his young, energetic team.

"It's always nice to have that star player," Lehman said. "It's going to be a new squad and an interesting year, but we'll have fun. I work with whatever kids I have. We have a great group of girls, and that's what's really important."

While Adams hopes to regain the services of Fielding for her senior year, he looks ahead to seeing who steps up and claims the No. 2 singles spot for the Indians, who won their fifth straight team title and 18th overall title in May in Pueblo.

"I understand Payton is having a good time, and traveling was something she really wanted to do," Adams said. "Not having her, I think we'll be affected all the way down the line. Having her at No. 2 is a coach's dream, but we'll have to make adjustments."

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