There are no shortage of story lines this season in high school boys tennis.
Brighton seeks its eighth straight state title in 5A — though some believe the Bengals are the underdog. Timpview looks to hold off a quality field in 4A, Juan Diego is the favorite to win its first state title in 3A, while Rowland Hall looks to bounce back in 2A after Manti ended its five-year run last year.
Here’s a class-by-class look at what to expect from the upcoming season:
There might be a changing of the guard in 5A tennis.
After narrowly finishing second to seven-time state champion Brighton last season, Viewmont could be poised to end Brighton’s dominance in 5A.
While Brighton graduated three seniors from last season — including its state champs at second and third singles — Viewmont returns all three singles players and its runner-up first doubles team.
Singles could be what pushes Viewmont over the top.
Sam Tullis won the 5A first singles state title as sophomore last season, while his younger brother Jacob Tullis was a runner-up in second singles as a freshman. Teammate Nic LeBaron was a runner-up at third singles as well, and he’s also back
Between those three and the returning doubles team of Isaac Ford and Ethan Hymas, the Vikings have a very formidable line-up.
As good as Viewmont is, there’s too much tradition at Brighton to simply brush the Bengals aside.
“We’ve got a lot of really great players, and they’ve been playing very hard all offseason, and they’re going to try and go out and do it again,” said Brighton coach Natalie Aposhian.
As for how it will all come together, Aposhian has no idea.
“We’re trying a bunch of different things. I’ve got doubles players trying singles, or if they’re going to stick with doubles. We’ve got incoming kids coming in, and with the weather games we’ve been playing, we’re just trying to figure out what’s going to work best in region and state,” said Aposhian.
Brighton’s Cody Crandall is a returning contributor at first singles, but he only went as far as the quarterfinals last year. Brandon Budge and Justin Mansell combined to win a state title at first doubles, but one or both could end up playing singles this season.
Another player to watch this season is Cottonwood senior Zeke Richards, who was a runner-up at first singles as a junior last season.
You don’t have to look far to find the state title favorite in 4A. Timpview has won nine of the last 10 state tournaments, and the T-Birds are once again the obvious favorites.
Timpview swept the singles and doubles titles last year, and the T-Birds look strong again with three of those seven athletes back.
“The team is solid, good group of kids, and singles is very, very solid,” said Timpview coach Rob Sperry, who humbly said the same thing he says every year, “We’ll be competitive.”
In general, 4A has much more parody than in year’s past, with teams like Bonneville, Highland, Woods Cross, Mountain View and Logan all fielding strong teams.
Timpview is the clear favorite, though. Junior Matthew Pearce, the state champ at second singles last year, makes the jump to first singles to replace his older brother Jon Pearce who graduated.
Paul Monson was the state champ at third singles last year, and he and Mason Brockbank will occupy Timpview’s other two singles spots this season.
The T-Birds graduated three of its four doubles players from last year, but Sperry said finding replacements won’t be tough.
“Our JV team is exceptionally strong, and that’s the good news when you graduate a bunch of players,” he said.
Josh Harrison won a state title at second doubles last year, and he’s actually the only senior on Timpview’s team this season.
Even though Pearce is the clear favorite at first singles, there’s certainly some talent to challenge him. Skyline’s Michael Polak, a foreign exchange student, has looked very strong, while Highland’s Jahoon Noh, Bonneville’s Parker Jones and Mountain View’s Jonathan Dollahite are all strong players.
Last season, four points is all that separated first place from fourth place at the 3A state tournament.
This season though, everybody but Juan Diego might be chasing second place.
Already this season Juan Diego beat defending state champion Park City 5-0 and last year’s runner-up, Desert Hills, 3-2.
“I think we’re one of the strongest teams in the state all divisions,” said Juan Diego coach Arthur Miyazaki, whose school has never won a state boys tennis title.
Just like the Tullis brothers in 5A, the Kempin brothers in 3A are why the Soaring Eagle are obvious state title favorites.
Junior Brendan Kempin is the defending state champion at first singles, while his freshman brother Ryan Kempin, is the top-ranked 14 year old in Utah.
Ryan Kempin’s arrival not only strengthens Juan Diego at second singles, but third singles, too. Brenton Reyner was a semifinalist at second singles last year, but this year he’ll compete in third singles.
The trio is good enough to sweep the 3A singles titles.
Juan Diego’s doubles teams are improved as well, but Desert Hills has perhaps the top doubles teams in Utah. The Thunder swept the doubles titles at state last year, and Mason Ford and Christian Davis are back at first doubles and Preston Parmenter returns at second doubles.
Desert Hills coach Dow Christensen, whose teams won titles in 2010 and 2011, expects the Thunder to be competitive again.
“We’re definitely much stronger this year than last year since we really didn’t lose anyone,” he said.
Manti ended Rowland Hall’s five-year run atop 2A tennis last year, but Rowland Hall coach Tim Sleeper is hoping the experience gained last year and depth will get his team back to the top of the 2A podium.
“I wouldn’t say we’ve got an outstanding player at top of squad like we usually do, but we’re deep. It should be interesting,” said Sleeper.
Rowland Hall returns five of its seven state tournament contributors from last year, while state champ Manti returns just two of seven.
Bryce Baker is Rowland Hall’s only individual returning champ at second singles, but he’ll compete at first singles this year.
“Bryce is an awesome mental athlete. He beats a lot of players who are better and who have more experience and who are older, and he beats them because he’s really good at keeping his composure,” said Sleeper.
Rowland Hall’s Matt Zubair was a runner-up at third singles last year, but he’ll be competing at second singles this season.
Waterford’s Jay T Anderson won last year’s title at first singles, and the senior is the clear favorite to repeat again this year.
Manti’s only returning contributors from last year’s state title time are Logan Lund at third singles and Jeremy Anderson at first doubles. Sleeper, however, said there’s too much tradition with Manti tennis not to expect the Templars to just reload to make a run at another title.