As soon as Pine View made the move to 4A after last season, its girl's tennis team immediately understood a rise in classification must equal an elevated level of play. All past state titles both team and individual earned in 3A would lose some luster if the Panthers fell flat on its face in 4A.
"We've been practicing really hard all year because we knew we had to step up our game," said third singles player Karlie Hancock. "We just came out here confident and ready to go, thinking we're going to win."
Judging by its day-one performance in the 4A girl's tennis tournament, the new team on the block seems to have adjusted life in a higher classification just fine.
Pine View won all of its first- and second-round matches in singles and doubles at Liberty Park on Friday. With 10 points, the Panthers have established themselves as a frontrunner for top team honors in today's semifinal and final matches.
Bountiful was second with nine points. Orem rounded out the top three with eight points.
It shouldn't come as a huge surprise to find Pine View at the top. The Panthers won or shared team state titles three out of their last four years in 3A. Besides tradition, they also returned loads of talent this season.
Hancock finished second, behind Juan Diego's Paige Miles, at second singles a year ago. Doubles players Hilary Wright, Lauren Wright and Andee Gempeler all claimed state titles in 2006.
Bringing home team titles has become a natural thing for this program.
"We always want to try and take state," Hancock said, after beating Woods Cross' Rachel Boman 6-0, 6-0 to reach the semifinals. "That's one of our main goals."
Pine View has a good shot because of increased depth. Adding freshman star Morgan Anderson to the mix moved players like Melissa Cowles and Hancock down a slot. Cowles said they can draw on experience gained in a higher singles slot and use that to their advantage.
"The type of player you play is different," said Cowles, a 6-0, 6-2 winner over Timpview's Grace Collins for a semifinal berth. "There's still really good players in both brackets, but just the type of player is different."
Anderson has validated many of the expectations building around her all season with several high profile match victories. The freshman showcased a little of what fuels her dominant play in a second round match against Bountiful's Taylor Perry.
Anderson earned a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Perry by blocking out and hitting deep balls to build large leads in each set. She anticipated end-of-set rallies and gave herself room to deal with it.
TODAY'S MATCHES MOVED: Because of inclement weather, the 4A semifinals and finals have been moved from Liberty Park to the indoor tennis courts at Eagleridge on 711 Parkway Drive, North Salt Lake.5A SEMIFINALS AND FINALS will be played Monday at Liberty Park.