ST. GEORGE — The Eagle has not landed — that’s the Juan Diego Soaring Eagle, and it may not land on Earth any time soon.
Carried away by winds of talent, steady breezes of predictions and prognosticators and — oh, by the way, three singles players who throttled through the championship matches as though they were in thin air, the Juan Diego boys tennis team captured the Utah State 3A Tennis Championship Saturday at the Green Valley Spa and Resort in St. George.
The constellations did not unexpectedly shift during the night, and there were no surprises on the tennis court as the Soaring Eagle accomplished the inevitable. Though tied at nine points with nearest rival Desert Hills after the first two rounds of play, Friday, the Soaring Eagle dominated the three singles semifinal and final matches Saturday, finishing with a team total of 21 points, with Desert Hills at 17 points for second place.
At No. 1 singles, Brendan Kempin, the top-ranked U-18 player in the Intermountain Region, repeated as state champion, defeating Desert Hills’ Clay Hardy in the semis before downing Dixie’s Tevan Balian in the championship match. His brother, Ryan Kempin, playing No. 2 singles, beat Snow Canyon’s Matt Douglas in the semis, then Dixie’s Micah Alba in the finals. At No. 3 singles, Brenton Reyner ousted Grantsville’s Devin Orgill in the semis and Snow Canyon’s Logan Wrigley in the finals.
Snow Canyon was third at 11, followed by Dixie with 10 points.
“Our three singles players had not lost a match all year,” said Juan Diego’s coach, Arthur Miyazaki. “We figured if we won those three with 18 points, we would still need some cushion from our doubles teams.”
Miyazaki was right on target with the 18 points, additionally receiving one “cushion” point from a first-round victory by doubles team, Ryan Lowe and Rex Alley, and two points from Nick Fuller and Dylan Zeiger, who advanced in the first and second rounds.
Due to the success of its singles players during the regular season, Juan Diego was a heavy favorite coming into the state tournament. Seventy-five matches later, nothing had changed. At the beginning of the finals, everyone was in his anticipated position. Only Juan Diego, with 15 points, and Desert Hills, at 13 points, were within mathematical reach of the state title. The Soaring Eagle were in all three singles finals and the Thunder in the two doubles finals, with two points available for each win.
The first possible malfunctioning to the perfect universe was a knee brace spotted on Juan Diego’s No. 2 singles player, Ryan Kempin.
Knee brace — no problem. Kempin quickly removed all doubts, storming his way to the net and a 6-0, 6-0 victory over Dixie’s Alba.
“I separated some ligaments in my knee, then bruised it,” said Kempin. “It hurt, but I was still able to get to the net.”
Juan Diego 17, Desert Hills 13
A few minutes afterward, both Desert Hills doubles teams (Mason Ford, Christian Davis 6-2, 6-2 and Preston Parmenter, Ryan McGinnis 6-4, 6-1) playing in adjacent courts, appeared to celebrate victories simultaneously, earning two points each.
Desert Hills 17, Juan Diego 17
It was not long after that that Reyner downed Snow Canyon’s Wrigley 6-4, 6-0, and the state championship was sealed.
Juan Diego 19, Desert Hills 17
Brendan Kempin beat Dixie’s Balian 6-2, 6-2 in the final match of the tournament for the 21-17 final.
The score was as predicted, Juan Diego soaring away with the state championship. With six players returning and the hopes of another Kempin joining the fight next year, it’s clear skies ahead and perhaps more predictions.
1. Juan Diego, 21; 2. Desert Hills, 17; 3. Snow Canyon, 11; 4. Dixie, 10; 5. Spanish Fork, 6; 6 (tie). Judge, Park City, 5; 8 (tie). Grantsville, Wasatch, 4.
Semifinals — Tevan Balian, Dixie, def. Nick Chingas, Spanish Fork, 7-5, 6-2; Brendan Kempin, Juan Diego, def. Clay Hardy, Desert Hills, 6-0, 6-1
Championship — Kempin, Juan Diego, def. Balian, Dixie, 6-2, 6-2
Semifinals — Micah Alba, Dixie, def. Rawson Simmons, Park City, 6-3, 6-1; Ryan Kempin, Juan Diego, def. Micha Gaelwiler, Desert Hills, 6-0, 6-1
Championship — Kempin, Juan Diego, def. Alba, Dixie, 6-0, 6-0
Semifinals — Logan Wrigley, Snow Canyon, def. Justin Ericksen, North Sanpete, 6-0, 6-0; Brenton Reyner, Juan Diego, def. Devin Orgill, Grantsville, 6-0, 6-0
Championship — Reyner, Juan Diego, def. Wrigley, Snow Canyon, 6-4, 6-0
Semifinals — Mason Ford/Christian Davis, Desert Hills, def. Zach Staheli/Avery Cope, Dixie, 6-0, 6-2; Brandon Reemsnyder/Luke Ropner, Judge, def. Dalton Roth/Josh Hunt, Uintah, 6-3, 6-1
Championship — Ford/Davis, Desert Hills, def. Reemsnyder/Ropner, Judge, 6-2, 6-2
Semifinals — Preston Parmenter/Ryan McGinnis, Desert Hills, def. Nick Fuller/Dylan Zeiger, Juan Diego, 6-1, 6-1; Nate Utley/Hunter McAurther, Snow Canyon, def. Robby Dixon/Aaron Starup, Spanish Fork, 6-2, 6-3
Championship — Parmenter/McGinnis, Desert Hills, def. Utley/McAurther, Snow Canyon, 6-2, 6-3.
James Edward is Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer.