Rams beat heat, Aspen foes en route to state tourney
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
CARBONDALE, Colorado – After two long days in the sun, Shaeley Lough and Yaritza Zarate weren’t overly thrilled by the prospect of another match.
Third place didn’t sound all that bad to the Roaring Fork High School girls tennis team’s No. 3 doubles duo.
But a challenge match awaited, a match that could deliver Lough and Zarate a state tournament berth.
With a straight-set win over Durango’s Stephanie Bowles and Kit Hackett moments earlier, the doubles teammates had secured a third-place finish at the Class 4A Region 8 tournament in Grand Junction last Friday.
That earned them a challenge match with Aspen’s Dairinn Bowers and Emily Puder, who finished second. On the line: the region’s second and final state spot.
“At first, Yari and I were like, ‘We’ll stick with third,'” Lough jokingly recalled.
“The sun was so hot,” chimed in Zarate.
But the good friends grabbed their rackets and went to work on a 6-2, 6-2 win over their Aspen foes.
“It’s a good thing we actually played,” Lough said with a smile.
And, judging by the wild celebration that followed, the rest of the Rams were equally glad Lough and Zarate played.
“They were all splashing water on us,” Lough said. “It was really cool.”
Now it’s off to Pueblo, where the two will represent their tiny Carbondale school at the state tournament, which runs Thursday through Saturday at Pueblo City Park.
“I talked to the old tennis coach and she said we’re the first in 20 years to make it,” said Lough, a junior.
And Lough’s going down in school history with one of her best friends.
“We’re like family, so it’s great that I get to experience it with her,” she said.
Because they’re so close, whatever bickering may occur between Lough and Zarate doesn’t derail their effort on the court.
“We’re like sisters,” explained Zarate, a sophomore. “We never get mad at each other or scream at each other. We laugh about it and get it over it until the next point. … Even if we lose a match or a set, we always talk about it and say, ‘OK, we can do it.’ We know what we did wrong and know what we can do now.”
Growing up, Lough’s brother, Nick, and Zarate’s brother, Martin, were good friends. That friendship bred another friendship.
“We’ve always been close, since our brothers have always been close,” Zarate said.
“She’s like my sister,” Lough said. “We’re not afraid to critique each other and what we’re doing. I can say, ‘Come on, Yari,’ and she doesn’t get upset with it.”
Because of that relationship, the two have been able to craft quite the partnership in a sport to which they’re both relatively new.
Zarate only began playing seriously last season. Lough joined the team this year. They’re already looking forward to years of tennis to come.
“I like that you can play the sport after you graduate,” Lough said. “You can just keep going.”
But graduation is down the road a bit. Once this year’s state experience is over, Lough and Zarate will still have another season of tennis together.
First, though, they’ve got some business to tend to in Pueblo.
“I keep telling myself that, if we’re driving four and a half hours, we better do good,” Lough said. “We better come home with something for everyone to be proud of. It’s an accomplishment to make it to state, but to actually place and do well would make all the difference.”
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