The Best of the Best tackled each other on the tennis courts Friday afternoon, with a couple of Craigs snaring a little more hardware in the process.
It was all Orem's Callie Craig in both of her matches against Rowland Hall's Blake Harries and Ogden's Tori Arneson as the 4A first singles state champion lost only three games in her two matches en route to the Best of the Best championship.
"I just went out and had fun, just letting myself believe it's not about who wins or loses," said Craig after the pair of matches that really gave her no trouble at all.
Craig played Ogden's Arneson in the final after Arneson and Judge Memorial's Mikkelle Mancini played the best match of the tournament in the semifinals. The marathon match went three sets and to the limit in the third as Arneson finally outlasted Mancini 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (7-2). Both girls turned around a few minutes later in battles for first and third places.
"It's usually pretty close when we play. We haven't played for a while, but we practice against each other a lot. I just tried to concentrate on getting serves in and going for shots when they came," said Arneson during her short break between matches.
But she didn't have many holes to take advantage of when she took on Craig in the final as the sophomore returned some pretty amazing shots, using her killer instinct, powerful strokes and efficient style to finish Arneson off for the title, 6-0, 6-2.
"I surprised myself getting some of those shots back. I was in the zone today. I love it when I play well," said Craig, who is also involved in the Monster Mash tournament this week, so far winning all matches in both the 16s and 18s singles in that tournament.
However, Craig and some others were disappointed that many of the top players in the state didn't show up to the tournament for various reasons.
Those top players missing in the first singles bracket include 5A champion MaryAnne MacFarlane of Weber and 3A champion Romina Nedakovic of Juan Diego, who won the Best of the Best last year and is widely considered the top player in the state.
"I wanted to play them so bad. I was looking forward to it, but maybe some other time," Craig noted.
Craig's twin sister Kelsie snared the second singles title with wins over up-and-comer Sonja Radosevic and Cottonwood's Vanesa Williamson, but she too was a little disappointed that she wouldn't have the opportunity to play missing 5A champ Ashley Tanner of Alta and 3A champ Paige Miles of Juan Diego.
Park City's Tessa Wray used her aggressive style to defeat Juan Diego's Masha Chadovich in the semifinals after Chadovich actually won the 3A third singles title. Again the division was missing a pair of top finishers in 5A champ Cameryn Call of Lone Peak and Orem's Andie Young, who won the 4A title.
Incoming president of the Utah Coaches Association, Robert Sperry, noted that there are several possible reasons behind the absences of some of the state's best players from the three-year tournament, including missing school, travel and logistics, and some format problems.
He believes that if the event were sanctioned by the Utah High School Activities Association and made to be more of a school team event rather than an individual event that more of the top players would show up. He also noted that it would help if the event were moved to Saturday instead of Friday to eliminate school-attendance problems.Bountiful swept the doubles titles over a pair of squads from Ogden to wrap up the action.
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