Brian Nicholson, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Since 2009, the 2A girls tennis title has been in a constant shuffle.
Waterford hoisted the trophy in ’09. Rowland Hall broke through to the top in 2010, and St. Joseph followed in 2011 with an improbable title run.
Rowland Hall ran the table in 2012 to become the current champions, but 2013 is as wide open as it's ever been.
“I think it’s going to be whoever can show up and play really smart tennis, maybe push through a couple matches that they shouldn’t have won,” said Rowland Hall tennis coach Tim Sleeper, who could pick up a possible third title in five years. “It’s really going to only take one or two matches to really change the tide and open it up, and I think anybody can win it this weekend. It’s very interesting.”
Second through sixth place were separated by just six points last year. Manti (7), Waterford (6), San Juan (5) and St. Joseph (4) all have potential to win simply on their qualification of a handful of players in Saturday’s tournament.
Reigning third singles champion Erica Park made the jump to first singles, where the Ravens junior will be looking to run the table on her way to the title. Manti senior Brooke Shelley makes her debut in first singles with a title-worthy match against Park, in one of the three quarterfinal matches the Templars are set to play against Waterford.
Maeser Prep senior Holly Miller is the only returning player in the first singles bracket this year, and will have to duke it out with the three sophomores in the lower bracket of first singles.
San Juan senior Emily Royer brings a perfect 8-0 regular season record into Saturday’s tournament and faces Rowland Hall freshman Lane Baker, who is part of a new era for the Winged Lion.
“Trying to replace everyone in one year isn’t a very likely expectation, so we’ll work with what we’ve got,” said Sleeper. “We’ve got some dedicated girls that have improved a lot this season, and they’re going to give it their all this weekend and that’s all you can ask for.”
Atop the second singles bracket is Waterford senior Grace Peterson, who is looking to shake two consecutive losses in the quarterfinals. Should Peterson advance, she will face the winner of Manti senior Tessa Smith or Delta senior Jandy Johnson.
Delta has made the transition into the 2A tournament virtually under the radar, and with four seniors heading the charge it could be interesting to see where the bar is set for the Rabbits.
Like most tournaments, and this is one is no exception, it most likely will come down to a high stakes doubles match for a team to be crowned.
Defending first doubles champions Arie Naylor and Amanda Naylor are undefeated for Manti on the season, and come in as the hottest doubles team on the courts. They’ll have a semifinals showdown against the winner of Rowland Hall duo Hollis Mills and Adria Lam and their counterparts Brittney MacDonald and Jessica Swenson of San Juan.
St. Joseph teammates Audra Thurston and Ali Koehler will be looking to shake off last year's disappointing semifinals loss and will help the Jayhawks fight for the top spot.
“Our priorities on the team are school first, fun second and winning third. So, even if we don’t come out on top, we’re going to have a good time,” said Sleeper.
The 2A girls state tennis tournament will take place this Saturday at the Liberty Park tennis courts starting at 9 a.m. Admission is free.
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