SALT LAKE CITY — It had been a four-year drought since St. Joseph High School claimed the 1A/2A girls tennis crown, but Saturday afternoon favored the Jayhawks in quite a remarkable finish at Liberty Park.
"We came so close last year, so it feels good to kind of get vindicated and come back with the same team and win," said coach Gary Griffenhagen.
After Ivee Barton and Natalia Behnken won the No. 1 doubles title, St. Joseph stood at 15 points with the overall lead. It got help from San Juan, when Juanita Royer bested Kaitlin Ramsey from Rowland Hall for the No. 2 singles title. The senior took the first set 6-4, but then struggled to an 0-2 second-set deficit before regaining her composure.
"I just tried to settle down and get myself to play," Royer said, "and when it got up to 2-2, I knew it was going to be close."
Royer finished the set strong to win it 6-3.
"Kaitlin is a really good player, and I'm glad I got to play her because it was really fun," Royer said.
San Juan also threw the Jayhawks a bone when Melanie Pugh and Bailey Meyer rallied to beat Sarah Mian and Sage Sterrett from Rowland Hall in an epic three-set match at No. 2 doubles.
The loss clinched the team title for St. Joseph, and those who were calculating the numbers knew the Jayhawks had won, as was the case for Coach Griffenhagen.
"I was doing an injury timeout when I looked over and saw San Juan had won, and that's when I turned to the crowd and said 'We won state!' " he said.
As for a game plan, Griffenhagen told his girls that every single point counts.
"We told all our singles players that if you go out there and play your best, and our doubles do what they do, we should win," he said.
St. Joseph had a bit of a preview of Rowland Hall last week, when the two teams met in a weekend tournament.
"We tied Rowland Hall for first place, so we knew we had a good chance coming in," Griffenhagen said.
The Winged Lion came into the tournament as the defending state champs, and played like it until the very end.
Madeline Foley claimed the No. 1 singles title, capping off an impressive undefeated season. The junior outlasted Joanna Matyjasik from St. Joseph, 7-6 (7-3) 6-4.
Scout Swenson also had a terrific outing, claiming her third consecutive state title by beating Katie Berry from St. Joseph. The junior took control early, lost a step on her opponent in the middle of play, and then composed herself to beat the St. Joe senior.