Kamil Krzaczynski, Deseret Morning News
Matt Cowley, above, and Michael Hughes constituted a potent one-two punch for the Woods Cross Wildcats this past season.

The Woods Cross tennis team's days as the proverbial doormat of Region 5 are now officially over.

Boasting one of the state's top one-two punches in freshman Matt Cowley and sophomore Michael Hughes, the Wildcats overcame their tradition (or lack thereof), to finish third in region and fifth in state, well ahead of traditional rival Bountiful and on par with Region 5 champion Mountain Crest.

While some coaches may have been surprised by the Wildcats' sudden switch from hunted to hunter, the Woods Cross brass saw it coming long before the team's impressive showing at the state tournament.

First year head coach Joe Cowley was well-aware of his team's potential at the beginning of the season and didn't hesitate to praise his players or to share credit with former coach Zach Rideout.

"I think this could be one of the best tennis teams that Woods Cross has ever had," he said well before state. "Zach lit the fire, and now I'm here to sort of take advantage of the work that he put in."

Cowley proved to be the Wildcats' top performer in the state tournament, advancing all the way to the semifinal round before falling to defending state champion AJ Young in three hard-fought sets.

With three more years to make his mark, Cowley will likely become a household name before his career at Woods Cross is finished.

"I was impressed with Matt Cowley at the state tournament," said Murray head coach Crystal Spackman. "I think a lot of players in his situation might have backed down against AJ, but he didn't look intimidated at all."

Not to be outdone by Cowley, Hughes also made the most of a trip to the semis before falling to eventual champion Cal Larsen of Timpview in straight sets.

"I think Michael has grown up a lot since last year," said Spackman.

With both Cowley and Hughes returning, the Wildcats will doubtlessly be a major player in the Region 5 title race in 2008. Whether or not the team can put together some semblance of a supporting cast, however, remains to be seen.

The graduation of Taylor Horn, a four-year varsity player, left a gaping hole at third singles. To make matters worse, all four doubles players have moved on, meaning that both teams will need to be rebuilt from the ground up.

"They lost some of their depth, but I'm sure they'll be back in it next year," said one opposing coach. "Joe Cowley is a great coach. I doubt he'll have any trouble getting a good team together for next season."

E-mail: tquinn@desnews.com