The girls' 4A tennis title was, right up to the last match almost, available to anyone of four teams. And, in what has to be viewed as a surprise move, it was East High that pulled out and sprinted into first place.
The Leopards, coached by Lee Hammel, considered the patriarch of prep tennis with nearly 30 years telling high school players how to hit tennis balls, put on a power finish in doubles to win the First Security 4A Girls Tennis Championships.It was, however, to anyone's recollection, the closest the title chase has ever been. East finished with 14 points, Skyline and Hillcrest each had 13, Highland had 12, Brighton (winners of the title the past seven years) had 11, Olympus 10, and Bonneville and Atla had three each.
Going into the last matches, however, it was anyone's race. Predictions at the start of the day and even after semifinals were that Highland would win. Hammel, in fact, said he left for lunch "thinking my team was going to finish third behind Highland and Skyline."
Highland, however, lost all four of its finals to fall out of contention. In its two doubles matches, in fact, the Rams lost to East. Skyline had a shot at the title, too, but lost the final singles match. Hillcrest, too, could have won, but ended up losing one of its two finals.
In the showcase event, No. 1 singles, Alison Bradford of Skyline, proved she was the best player in the state this day. First she beat Stephanie Ball of Alta, 6-3, 6-4, then came back to crush Suzi Ennenga of Hillcrest, 6-3, 6-0, for the title.
After the match she admitted she felt good almost from the very start. "I was nervous and the only think I hoped for was that I played well. I thought I did. I'm happy with the way I played," she said after the match.
She started out falling behind 3-1, admitting after that she wasn't concentrating at the start. When she did she made very few unforced errors, especially in the second set, to dominate the match.
At No. 2 singles, with the outcome of the whole event hanging over it, Jennifer Jensen of Hillcrest, rallied in the third set to beat Kristin Kelly of Skyline, 6-2, 1-6, 7-5. And at No. 3 singles, Lisa Mackay of Brighton, beat Anna Eyring of Olympus, 6-2, 6-4.
The turning point in the tournament came in doubles. At No. 1, Peachy Romney and Kelly Clark of East, beat Heather Scott and Sarah Scalley of Highland, 6-3, 6-3.
The clincher came at No. 2 doubles. Here, Lisa and Heather Clark of East, got revenge for a loss in region by beating Kim Rich and Maureen Evans of Highland, 0-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-3.
For Hammel, the win came as a total surprise. He admitted, however, that all season long he's centered his team around doubles play. That, he said, was where his team's strength was.
"I've not had a great record over all the year's I've coach. The last time we won the title was in 1975, I think. But it's nice to see the kids come through like this. Still, I'm really surprised. It's exciting, though."
Finals results can be found in Scoreboard on D8.