I’ve done my best not to raise the bar too high, and try to explain to the girls as long as they go out and play to the best of their ability, win or lose they have nothing to feel bad about. —Lone Peak coach John LaCognata
The girls tennis landscape has changed significantly from last season, which should make for exciting 5A, 4A and 3A state tournaments later this week at Liberty Park.
The first two rounds of the 5A tournament will take place Wednesday, followed by 4A on Thursday and 3A on Saturday. The final two rounds of all three classifications will be held Saturday.
A year ago Lone Peak, Bountiful and Judge captured state titles, but graduation and realignment have dramatically altered the playing field.
This year, Lone Peak will be in a dogfight with Davis for the 5A title, while Bountiful is one of three or four teams hoping to make noise in the 4A race. One of those 4A contenders is Judge, which was bumped up from 3A in the latest UHSAA realignment. That departure opens the door for Park City and Pine View to battle it out for the 3A crown.
Lone Peak would likely be the clear favorite in 5A, but last year’s first singles state champion Taylor Calton opted to focus on national tournaments this fall instead of competing at the high school level. The Knights still won the Region 4 title without her, but their depth took a hit.
“It’s going to be a little tougher. It’s going to be more of a grind,” said Lone Peak coach John LaCognata, who believes Davis is actually the slight 5A favorite.
Lone Peak and Davis swept the region titles in singles and doubles, and they could potentially meet in three of the five championship matches with the UHSAA using rotating brackets for the first time.
The battle for the first singles championship should be very competitive. Alta senior Emily Tanner was a runner-up a year ago, while Davis junior Breezy Turley and Lone Peak sophomore Leah Heimuli were finalists at second singles.
Turley beat Heimuli in last year’s championship, but this year the two would meet in the first singles semifinals if they take care of business Wednesday. LaCognata has been impressed with how Heimuli has flourished after Calton’s decision to compete nationally.
“She’s been an excellent anchor. She’s a very focused, very determined young lady. She’s a quiet leader, but she’s definitely a leader of the team,” said LaCognata.
Morgan Hall will be a key at second singles for Lone Peak. She was a third singles champ last season, but she’ll face some stiff competition from Davis freshman Whitney Turley.
“I’ve done my best not to raise the bar too high, and try to explain to the girls as long as they go out and play to the best of their ability, win or lose they have nothing to feel bad about,” said LaCognata.
Alta is deep enough to make a run at the state title, while Bingham’s strong doubles teams give the Miners hope.
In 4A, numerous teams believe they have what it takes, including defending champion Bountiful, defending 3A champion Judge, along with Timpview, East and Skyline.
Timpview is the only school that features five individual region champions, and the T-Birds could be the sleeper to win their first title since 2001.
Sophomore Kate Cusick is the only first singles semifinalist returning from last year, and she’s the clear favorite — even though Corner Canyon senior Killian Doran could present some problems in the semis.
Timpview’s Jenny Farnsworth and Catherine Cranney are strong as well at second and third singles, respectively. Neither are necessarily favored, but they’re in the mix, which is a 4A theme this season.
Bountiful’s Mariah Miller was a second singles runner-up last season, but she heads into the state tournament as the Region 6 No. 2 seed, having been edged out by East senior Ruby Parkin. At state, both their teams desperately need them to score big points to make a run at state.
The 3A tournament is shaping up to be a two-team race between Park City and Pine View, but Park City coach Tim Donnelly is quick to point out that anything can happen.
“Tennis is a funny game. You don’t really know on either side who’s going to show up and play,” said Donnelly.
Park City was a 3A runner-up a year ago, and it’s playing very well heading into the 3A tourney this Friday.
“Four out of our five teams won region championships in Region 10, and our fifth came in second, so that was a great tournament. They should be very proud,” said Donnelly.
Pine View’s strength at first and second singles in particular will make the Panthers a very difficult team to beat. Junior Lacey Hancock is back after winning the first singles title last year, while Hannah Erekson is very strong at second singles.
Park City didn’t advance any singles players past the quarterfinals in 2012, but that will need to change if it hopes to claim the school’s first girls tennis title since 1992.