High school boys tennis: Brighton, Juan Diego among the favorites in 2014

Published: Monday, April 7 2014 8:55 p.m. MDT

Viewmont's Sam Tullis competes in and wins the 1st singles in the 5A boys state tennis championships at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City on Saturday, May 11, 2013.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

A year after a very competitive boys tennis season — the four state titles were decided by a combined nine points — don’t be surprised if the battle for championships is just as tight again this year.

Of the four classifications, only Juan Diego looks like a potential runaway winner in 2014.

Here’s a class-by-class look at what to expect from the upcoming season:

CLASS 5A

A year after capturing its first state championship since 2002 and halting Brighton’s bid for a state-record eighth straight title in the process, Viewmont is a team facing uncertainty this spring.

Make no mistake, brothers Sam Tullis and Jacob Tullis are the obvious favorites at first and second singles, respectively, again this year, but the other five players who contributed to Viewmont’s state title all graduated.

“We’re going to have to have other players step up. We do have some. They just don’t have a lot of varsity experience at region or state,” said Viewmont coach Mark Burningham. “But I’m hoping we have some doubles players and a third singles player step up and play well.”

There’s a lot of fluidity right now with Viewmont’s lineup as Burningham tries to find the right combination of players to ultimately maximize as many points as possible at the 5A state tournament next month.

Points will be at a premium at state, with everyone likely gunning for Brighton again after a one-year hiatus. The Bengals finished second in 5A last year, just three points behind Viewmont, and four of the five players who won individual titles last year are back.

“My kids are always hungry for tennis. They play all the time, anywhere they can possibly play,” said Brighton coach Natalie Meyer.

Brighton sophomore Chase Stoner is the defending state champ at third singles, while junior Anthony Punuzio and sophomore Mitchell Mansell combined to win at first doubles. Sophomore Cheyenne Perry was part of the championship team at second doubles.

With the graduation of Brighton’s first and second singles players, who combined to pick up just one point at state, Meyer is toying around with a lot of lineup possibilities this spring. She’d like to have everything sorted out in the next couple of weeks, though, to start building momentum toward state.

“I like to be able to settle it as soon as I can so the kids know, 'This is my spot, this is where I’m playing,'” said Meyer. “You have to look at strategy and you have to let all your kids play off and you have to put them in the proper position according to ability level so nobody’s stacking their teams.”

While state is likely a two-team race between Viewmont and Brighton, Lone Peak and Bingham both should be strong again this year. Lone Peak sophomore Brocton Andrus was a first singles semifinalist a year ago, and big things are expected of him again.

CLASS 4A

Mountain View surprised many by knocking off perennial 4A favorite Timpview at last year’s state tournament, and the two Utah County schools are the likely favorites again this year.

Mountain View returns individual state champs Jon Dollahite and Manuel Ortiz, and has a clear edge in that department. Timpview, meanwhile, doesn’t return any state champs, and doesn’t even have Matt Pearce back after he graduated early to play at BYU. But the T-Birds are deep at every position.

“Obviously with (Pearce) back that would’ve made us stronger, but we’ll be very competitive again at the state level,” said Timpview coach Rob Sperry.

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