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High school boys tennis: Juan Diego the clear-cut favorite heading into 3A tourney

Published: Tuesday, May 6 2014 12:06 a.m. MDT

Juan Diego's Ryan Kempin swings mightily against Dixie's Micah Alba during the Second Singles Final at the 3A State High School Championship at Green Valley Spa in St. George on Saturday, May 18, 2013.

Trevor Christensen / The Spectrum & Daily News

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Despite picking up only a handful of points from its doubles teams at last year’s state tournament, Juan Diego rode the coattails of its strong singles contingent to capture the first boys tennis title in school history.

A year later, all of those singles players are back — and this year the doubles teams are ready to hold their own.

“I have three tournament players out of the four positions in doubles, which is lucky. You don’t often get tournament players playing doubles for you,” said Juan Diego coach Arthur Miyasaki.

With a strong lineup in both singles and doubles, Juan Diego is the overwhelming favorite at this weekend’s 3A state tournament at Liberty Park. The first two rounds will be held on Friday, with the semifinals and championship matches taking place on Saturday.

Sweeping all three singles titles and both doubles titles isn’t out of the question for Juan Diego.

Soaring Eagle senior Brendon Kempin is the reigning first singles champ, while sophomore little brother Ryan Kempin won at second singles a year ago. Senior teammate Brenton Reyner won at third singles in 2013, and all three are favored to repeat.

“It doesn’t matter who my kids play, if it’s a strong school or a weaker program, they basically go out there and respect every opponent and they try their best,” said Miyasaki.

Juan Diego’s doubles teams were strengthened by a third Kempin this season. Freshman Connor Kempin and fellow freshman Ben Agrelius teamed up to win the Region 10 first doubles title. The second doubles team is led by Ryan Lowe and Rex Alley.

Standing in Juan Diego’s path for a potential title sweep is Desert Hills, which won the first and second doubles titles a year ago.

Christian Davis, who was on that title-winning first doubles team last year, and teammate Clay Hardy were perfect in Region 9 this season and are regarded as the 3A front-runner this weekend.

Desert Hills’ second doubles team of Preston Parmenter, who helped win at second doubles last year, and Austin Hardy also won the Region 9 title.

Desert Hills rode its doubles teams to a second-place team finish a year ago, but this year Dixie is hoping to do the same with its singles players.

Dixie’s singles trio of Tevan Balian, Micah Alba and Luke Heaton each captured No. 1 seeds out of Region 9 this season, and Balian and Alba have plenty of tourney experience to draw upon. Balian was the runner-up to Brendon Kempin at first singles last year, while Alba was a runner-up to Ryan Kempin at second singles.

“This is basically (Tevan’s) last competitive match. I think he’s just kind of excited where he is and confident. I think he expects to get to the finals. He’s very comfortable where he is mentally,” said Dixie coach Eric Christensen.

Heaton has never played in the state tournament, but he has plenty of shot-making ability to go on a deep run in the third singles bracket.

Despite being the obvious underdog to Juan Diego, Dixie's coach believes his athletes can be competitive if they approach each match the right way.

“Keep them focused on the technical side of it instead of the mental side of it. Point to point, what are you doing? Try to play your game. Racket speed, foot work, you only have control of what you have control of. You can only play the ball, you can’t play your opponent,” he said.

3A state tournament

Friday’s first round

First Singles

Upper bracket

Justin Ericksen, North Sanpete, Jr. vs. TJ Hatch, Morgan

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