With the start of the fall sports season, many coaches are uncertain of what to expect. But if Conifer’s 5-2 win over Dakota Ridge on Aug. 30 is any indicator Conifer boys’ tennis head coach Dennis Knopf has a bright season ahead.
Late August in Colorado brings unpredictable weather, especially in the afternoon. Both teams arrived at the Ken Caryl Ranch House under dark skies and a cool breeze. Coaches and players alike proceeded with the meet with breath held that the clouds wouldn’t open up and cancel the meet.
Thankfully, the rain held off, with only a sprinkle here and there, but the wind made for some interesting tennis.
“The wind definitely carried the ball a couple of times,” said Dakota Ridge senior and No. 2 singles player Joel Barwinski. “It made it tough to serve and the ball would carry into the net.”
Barwinski battled Conifer junior Reid Lang through three endurance-packed sets, ultimately losing 7-5, 1-6, 6-3. Both Barwinski and Lang maintained their composure through long sets, making their match the last to finish.
The endurance of the game didn’t seem to faze Barwinski like it did Lang.
“Sometimes when you think that ‘Oh, I just want this point to be over’ then you mess up. So you got to just keep playing and when the right opportunity opens up then you take it, but until then you have to keep after it,” Barwinski said.
“Normally I slow down my game to match the pace of my opponent, but I didn’t do that today because I wanted that win. I had to fight him for it, but I got it,” said Lang, who consistently hit an aggressive serve and return, occasionally hitting the ball overly hard so that the ball would fly directly into the fence, ending the rally to maintain pace of game.
“It was a lot of fun to be able to hit back and forth. There were a lot of long rallies and we had a good time out there,” Barwinski said. “We were both positive the whole time, but there was a lot of mental game being played.”
Dakota Ridge did well in singles play, but the four doubles matches were a struggle.
“Our strength as a team is definitely the singles game,” Dakota Ridge head coach Rusty Watkins said. “Our No. 1 and 3 singles won today and our No. 2 singles played very well. The goal is to get better every time we play, and this was a good start to the season.”
CONIFER 5, DAKOTA RIDGE 2
No. 1 singles: Adam Rivera, Dakota Ridge, def. Skylar Budd, 6-2, 6-0
No. 2: Reid Lang, Conifer, def. Joel Barwinski, 7-5, 1-6, 6-3
No. 3: Micah Schulman, Dakota Ridge, def. Sam Kussman, 6-3, 7-5
No. 1 doubles: Jeremy Swanson/David Clark, Conifer, def. Tommy Walker/Derek Hook, 6-0, 6-1
No. 2: Ben Kassman/Ian Heaney, Conifer, def. Joel Henshaw/Stephan Arnuatovic, 6-3, 6-2
No. 3: Ben Yerks/Kooper Hackmonn, Conifer, def. Nate Day/Brandon Lovejoy, 6-0, 6-0
No. 4: James McDurmond/Chase Barber, Conifer, def. Noah Johnson/Paul Berker, 6-0, 6-0