Every tournament has to have an underdog, somebody that comes out of nowhere to shock the field. The 5A tennis tournament was no different, thanks to Cottonwood's Matt Halverson.
His dramatic 7-6, 3-6, 6-4 victory over Davis' Ricky Weinert capped an upset-filled march that saw the third-seeded Halverson knock off three No. 1 seeds in a row. In the process, he helped Cottonwood to the team title with 15 total points."Matt did it for us," said Colt coach Gary Alverson. "He wasn't supposed to do much, but he showed a lot of guts and helped us get the title. This is exciting for the whole school."
What makes Halverson's title run even more unlikely is that he actually quit the sport two years ago during his sophomore season, due to what he called "burnout."
"I just got sick of playing every day," said Halverson. "I competed in some national tournaments, and was playing all the time. It just got old. It was a burden."
Halverson didn't touch a racquet for almost two years. He just tossed all his equipment aside and went on with his life. But one day, after opening his closet and seeing his old racquets buried deep in the back corner, something clicked.
"I just saw my old racquets sitting there and said, `I should put these things back to good use,' " said Halverson. "I came back just to have some fun. It wasn't because I really missed playing."
He picked up the sport before the start of this season and quickly earned a spot as the No. 3 single's player. But it wasn't all good. He lost twice to Weinert, who he beat on Saturday for the title, and grew frustrated. But a chance at the state title remotivated Halverson, and the rest, as they say, is history.
"I was the underdog the whole way. It's hard to describe what I'm feeling," said Halverson. "I can hardly talk."
He didn't have to. After watching Weinert's final shot sail out-of-bounds, Halverson let out a giant scream of excitement. He threw his racquet in the air, jumped up and down and almost started crying.
"You saw what tennis really means to Matt right there," said his father, Gary. "We supported him when he gave up playing, but were thrilled when he decided to play. It takes a lot of money to put someone through private lessons, and we hoped he would put them to good use."
He seems to have done so.
In other action, Taylorsville's Alex Tran came back from two 4-2 deficits to win the No. 1 singles title over Cottonwood's Tyler Poul-son, 7-6, 6-4, while Rashon Rasekhi, out of Brighton, captured the No. single's trophy.
In double's action, Skyline's duo of Peter Lawson and Justin Hays captured the crown they were favored to win, while Cottonwood's Josh Neeley and Brian Anderson held off a feisty Davis crew for a 6-1, 7-6 victory.
Brighton finished second in the team competition with 13 points. West Jordan edged Skyline for third place.