SOUTHERN UTAH – After a week of team selection and practice, boys tennis matches started Monday. This season, teams from Dixie, Desert Hills, Hurricane, Pine View, Snow Canyon, Canyon View and Cedar will look to bring home a State trophy, Region 9’s first since 2011.
“We need to be ready physically, mentally and spiritually,” Snow Canyon 1st singles player Matthew Morgan said.
As many varsity players are seniors, the passing of each school year can bring drastic changes to a team’s dynamic. On the Snow Canyon, Pine View and Hurricane teams, a mixture of exuberant rookies and former junior varsity players moving up are striving to make their mark.
“With only three returning varsity players from last year, our team will take on a whole new look,” Hurricane coach Marc Manuele said. “They are committed to improving and are practicing very hard. We have a lot of competition for the open varsity spots, with new seniors and freshmen pushing our team to get better.”
In contrast, Dixie is counting on experience to get them through tough matches. The varsity team will be led by five seniors. Tevan Balian, Micah Alba and Luke Heaton have each played in a State final, and are familiar with the pressure of performing with the championship on the line.
“Last season we were very talented, but we didn’t have what it took to win it all,” DHS 1st doubles player Avery Cope said. “We have lots of potential this year. If we can play up to our abilities, then we have a legitimate shot to take the title.”
Snow Canyon’s Morgan said he knows the finish to the season is the most important thing of all.
“For me, a good finish means to make the whole experience enjoyable,” he said.
Regular matches continue through March and April, culminating in the Region 9 tournament May 2-3 at the Green Valley Resort in St. George. Varsity players will battle it out over the weekend to qualify for the 3A State Tournament.
“Our region is, by far, the strongest region in the state,” Dixie High School Coach Eric Christensen said. “It will be a battle between Dixie, Snow Canyon and (Desert Hills). All three are deep enough to make a serious run.”
“Our region will be very deep as usual, and we would like to get back on top and hold that trophy at our Region tournament,” Christensen said. “We should have three of the top four teams in the state right here, so it will be great practice in preparation for (State).”
Despite Southern Utah’s reputation as an area with great depth of talent, a Region 9 school hasn’t won State in boys or girls tennis since 2011.
The 2014 3A State Championship is set for May 9-10 at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City and will be overseen, as with all other season activities, by the Utah High School Activities Association.
By all accounts, Juan Diego is the team to beat. The Soaring Eagle’s dominant lineup swept all three singles spots and the overall title last season.
Despite strong performances, Snow Canyon and Dixie took third and fourth, respectively. Outstanding doubles teams were Desert Hills’ saving grace, as their victories garnered enough points for the school to finish in second place overall.
To achieve the elusive victory, Region 9’s teams must bring nothing less than their A-game throughout the season.
“We need to play our best, peak at the right time and hope to get a few breaks,” Christensoe said.
“I’m excited to see how far we can go this year,” Manuele said of his team.
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