SOUTHERN UTAH – Boys’ tennis season starts on March 19, and all players and coaches are bringing their best to the court.
Region 9‘s seven high schools – Desert Hills, Dixie, Hurricane, Pine View, Snow Canyon, Canyon View and Cedar – will compete against one another in season matches that are sure to be challenging.
“St. George is a tennis community and our region is very tough,” Dixie coach Eric Christensen said.
Players that make it past Region will then face heavy opposition in the form of teams from other parts of Utah at State.
“The team to beat is Judge Memorial Catholic School,” Dixie player Mason Aldred, 18, said. “They recruit players, therefore upping the desire to be on the team and the quality of players.”
“Juan Diego will also have a good chance of winning this year, and Park City is always a deep team,” Christensen said. “It will be a thrilling season.”
After taking State in 2009, 2010 and 2011, Desert Hills finished in a respectable second place last year. And with one of the largest and most skilled lineups in Region 9 this year, they are ready to take another shot at the title.
“We are deeper than any team I have ever had,” coach Dow Christenson said. “Varsity will be very intense.”
KinKade Stanger, 15, is a new face on the Desert Hills team. Though he started playing tennis just a year ago, he may be a candidate for varsity.
The other teams have kids who have way more experience than he does, Stanger said, “but I’m looking forward to playing for my school.”
“This season is a new challenge and a new competition,” Josh Wade, 16, said.
First match: March 19 vs. Dixie
Dixie tied Desert Hills as State runner-up last year, but second best isn’t good enough for Christensen.
“Our goal is to be State champion this season,” he said. “Anything less will be a disappointment.”
Though the team lost standout Zeno Kastelic, he will have a skilled replacement in Tevan Balian, last year’s No. 2 singles champion and the only Region 9 player to remain undefeated throughout the 2012 season. Last year’s No. 1 doubles runner-ups Luke Heaton and Micah Alba will fill the remaining singles spots to lead a powerful lineup.
First match: March 19 vs. Desert Hills
At State 2012, Hurricane had the second-best finish of any Region 9 school, coming in at fifth place. But five of their seven varsity players have since graduated, leaving former junior varsity players or rookies to fill their spots.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how our team responds,” coach Marc Manuele said, referring to their loss. “I think they are up to the challenge.”
Shayden Hinton and Karter Beardall, last year’s No. 2 doubles runner-ups, will now lead the team.
“My goal is competing at my best and helping lead my team to State,” Beardall, 18, said. “I have put a lot of hard work and dedication to achieving this goal.”
First match: March 19 vs. Pine View
Pine View tied Cedar in a disappointing 17th place at State last year, but with the replacement of longtime coach Ray Sundin and a freshened lineup, they are hoping to turn things around.
“That was in the past,” said Dave Crawford, who coaches alongside Jim Lyden. “We will improve our play, our attitudes and our desire. We will compete with ourselves to get better every time we set on the court.”
Varsity veterans such as Peter Neve and Aaron Fielding will likely lead the team in the singles positions, but Crawford said that the school also has skilled underclassmen who will be taking on new challenges this year.
“We are building to great things at Pine View,” he said.
First match: March 19 vs. Hurricane
Snow Canyon finished in eighth place at State 2012, and has since lost two seniors and a promising freshman. A tough Region and State are anticipated for all Southern Utah teams, but the battle may start even before the competition.
“Every team this year will be a challenge, but the biggest (obstacle) is our own mental game,” coach Jeremy Atkin said. “This sport is not easy. If we can stay mentally tough, we can reach our goal.”
Atkin is still in the process of determining the varsity lineup for his players, some of who he said are talented enough to earn scholarships or even enter the pro circuit.
First match: March 19 vs. Canyon View
Coming off a modest season record and 15th place finish at State last year, Canyon View is eager to start fresh and begin working their way towards the top.
“We’re looking forward to seeing our team improve and the new players progress,” coach Zach Hathaway said. “Our goal is to be competitive in each position.”
“We have to get out there, play our very hardest and win some matches,” Ammon Saylor, 17, said. “I feel like our biggest competition is going to be ourselves. If we relax and just play our game we can be a tough team.”
First match: March 19 vs. Snow Canyon
Cedar has a history as a school that performs well during season and reaches State, but never quite captures a title. But coach Jeremiah Sullivan said it’s not for lack of effort.
“The boys put their blood, sweat and tears into winning each match,” he said. “We never give up.”
This year marks the arrival of strong new players at Cedar, including power hitter Cole Loveland and former soccer player Mitchell Hanson. Zac Coonen will once again lead the team in No. 1 singles.
“I have a real good group of kids,” Sullivan said. “They love to play the sport and work hard.”
First match: March 21 vs. Canyon View
For the first time, the 3A State championship will be held in St. George at the Green Valley Spa. Play is scheduled for May 17 and 18. The tournament will be overseen by the Utah High School Activities Association.
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