SHERIDAN — The 2019 high school tennis season is underway for Sheridan High School with the Lady Broncs defeating Kelly Walsh and Natrona County high schools in head-to-head matchups at the SHS tennis courts Thursday. The Broncs defeated Natrona and fell to Kelly Walsh.

The Lady Broncs swept Natrona, winning all five matches in the contest. In the No. 1 singles match, Julia Kutz won both sets 6-1.

Kutz had to adjust her game to account for her opponent hitting the ball softer. Kutz knew her opponent would be able to hit any return shots she sent back.

“I started to come up to the net more and started to be more aggressive against her,” Kutz said. “It took a little more power off of my groundstrokes but improved my consistency. With the people who do not hit as hard, they can get to pretty much everything and be able to hit everything back. So if you can match them then it is more likely that they will make the mistake.”

Kutz said her consistency on serves also helped her gain the victory. Consistency was the name of the game for the Lady Broncs against Natrona. Kutz said her teammates were all playing consistent and did a good job of building each other up.

Ella Laird cruised to a 6-0 victory in both sets of the No. 2 singles match. All three doubles teams won for the Lady Broncs in two sets.

No. 1 doubles Tori Pearce and Steph Gonda won 6-1 and 6-0, No. 2 doubles Aspen Malkuch and Sydni Bilyeu won 6-1 and 6-3 and No. 3 doubles Laurin Jensen and Sam Dillon won 6-0 and 6-3.

The Broncs also swept Natrona in all five matches, starting with Ethan Kutz in No. 1 singles and No. 2 doubles Tomy Phillips and Tristan Thompson refusing to lose a single game, winning 6-0 in each set.

“My strategy was to get to the net as soon as I can and do not rally it out at the baseline,” E. Kutz said. “Serve, get to the net. Return, get to the net and put him away.”

E. Kutz wanted to finish points fast due to the heat, and he was trying to save energy for the next match against Kelly Walsh.

SHS head coach Bob Faurot makes it an emphasis that his players are able to play well at the net, knowing that who can control play at the net can control the game.

In the rest of the matches against Natrona, No. 2 singles Reed Rabon won 6-1, 6-1; No. 1 doubles Kevin Woodrow and Jarrett Hoy won 6-1, 6-0; and No. 3 doubles Zane Myers and Cameron Springsteen won 6-1, 6-1.

“This morning went really well,” Faurot said in between contests. “We did not lose a set, but Natrona is not a real strong team so it is a good one to open with. The challenge will be this afternoon, Kelly Walsh will be a little tougher.”

The Broncs and Lady Broncs had about an hour rest before facing Kelly Walsh; Faurot made sure his players were hydrated and found shade when they could. The temperature reached 100 degrees Fahrenheit on the courts, Faurot said.

Players use wet towels during matches to stay cool or pour water on themselves, Laird said.

The Lady Broncs defeated Kelly Walsh 3-2, winning No. 2 singles and doubles, along with No. 1 doubles.

J. Kutz lost her matches 6-2, 6-2 while Laird won her singles match 6-3, 7-5.

“It was really tough in the heat definitely, but I was very consistent,” Laird said. “I was super competitive and we had really long rallies. Anyone could have won that match I think.”

The split performance by the singles players places Faurot in a difficult position, knowing both players are equal in skill level. Looking to build the best team for state, Faurot needs to place the player who will go the furthest in the state tournament, with more points being awarded in the No. 1 singles bracket.

Pearce and Gonda needed three sets to finish their match, taking the tiebreaker set 7-4. Malkuch and Bilyeu won 6-2, 6-4.

“They are looking strong,” Faurot said about the Lady Broncs. “One and two singles is going to be a tough decision here. They are both equal. We will see how that goes but we are really strong there so that is good. Our doubles showed up and did a pretty good job today. We need to get stronger, especially down low. They are still looking good but the improvement has to come.”

The girls Kelly Walsh tennis program is strong, finishing second at state last year. The Lady Broncs start the season 2-0. Laird said the two early wins give the team confidence, especially since the Lady Broncs lost to Kelly Walsh a lot last year. Laird wants this confidence to lead to hard work in the ensuing practices.

“During the summer we really worked hard,” Laird said. “The conditioning and hard work through the two weeks of practice have paid off and it has definitely shown.”

The Broncs struggled against a strong Kelly Walsh team; only E. Kutz came away with a victory, winning 6-1, 6-1.

“It was tough like I thought it would be,” Faurot said. “I was a little disappointed, I thought it would be a little closer, we only won the first singles. I thought some of our doubles could do something. They fought hard but they could not pull out the match.”

The Lady Broncs and Broncs are back in action 3 p.m. Friday, with a home match against Jackson at the SHS tennis courts.