With one team competing for its sixth straight crown, another trying to complete a trifecta of state titles and two more aiming for their fifth championships in seven years, there will be a lot of same-old, same-old at the top of every division in boys tennis this year. As Logan proved last year by knocking off four-time straight state champion Park City, however, any committed team can play spoiler.
In 5A, there is no doubt Brighton, going for its third straight title, will compete for the championship again.
"Brighton is going to be dominant. They've got their two state champ singles back and a third that's supposed to be just as good," Lone Peak coach John LaCognata said.
The returning dominating singles players are Spencer Smith at first singles and Corbin Benson at second. Newcomer Grant Taylor will round it out at third singles.
"We expect to keep the same standard of excellence. We want to make everybody play their extreme best to have to beat us," Brighton coach Natalie Aposhian said.
Lone Peak hopes to be that team. The Knights return Spencer and Tyler Loong at first and second singles, as well as Mike Nielson at first doubles.
"We've got five seniors, but I've also got ten sophomores and two freshmen. I hope we have a fast learning curve," LaCognata said.
Both coaches expect stiff competition from Bingham, which made a good showing at state last year. Lehi, behind Devin Dean, Pleasant Grove with Taylor Dehoyos and Timpanogos with Tyler Mayberry should also put up a good fight.
"Everyone has a real strong top-notch player this year," LaCognata said.
In 4A, Timpview has won five straight state championships, but with the margin of victory getting slimmer through the years. With only two points separating first and second the last two seasons, this year's battle is looking to be fierce. One competitor aiming to give Timpview fits come state is Highland, which finished just three points behind Timpview last year.
"Highland has a good strong tradition in tennis. I expect we'll be competing for region and state again," coach Mark Foote said. "Timpview is obviously the team to beat again. They seem to always have a deep team and are really competitive."
Highland returns several key players from last year's team, including Sutton Shackleford, runner-up in second singles last season, and Devon Lane, who took state last year in first singles as a freshman.
"This team has been a nice thing to inherit," Foote said.
Cottonwood, behind strong play at first singles by freshman Matt Sweet, is also expected to contend at state.
With all three singles players returning, Logan should be the team to beat at state in 3A. Head coach Dave Reynolds downplays state expectations, however, by focusing more on region.
"We hope to win our region for the 7th straight year going back from when we were in 4A," Reynolds said.
Besides the three top-notch singles players, Brandon Nielsen, Alex Daines and Jordan Ballam, the Grizzlies also return Mark Hopkins.
Logan should face rigorous competition from Park City, as the Miners are aiming to get back to the top of championship hierarchy this year.
"My expectations are to have a strong team and to be strong competition. I've scheduled the season to give us the most difficult competition to prepare us for state," coach Scooter Mastain said.
The Miners return seniors Taylor Smith, Blake Barcus, Eric Pace, Tommy Clark and Beau Freckleton, as well as sophomore Jack Burrus.
"I'm so excited to see them grow. This year I'm looking for determination, focus, respect and being clutch in the moments we need it," Mastain said.
Waterford, consistently near the top of the standings in 1A/2A in recent years, moved up to 3A this season and could make some noise. Competitive senior Daniel Reichart, who took first in second singles at state last year, will move up to first singles this season to lead the Ravens.
With Waterford moving up, odds are good for Rowland Hall to repeat (going for five titles in seven years) at state in 1A/2A. Rowland Hall tied with Waterford for the title last year. Despite losing several key seniors, like four-time state champion Calvin Bennett, Rowland Hall always has a solid JV team and will be ready.
The two teams that could give Rowland Hall a run are the St. Joseph Jayhawks and the persistently good Manti Templars. Although Manti also lost a number of excellent seniors, it always fields a competitive team. St. Joseph is facing a rebuilding year, but coach Gary Griffenhagen hopes the Jayhawks will pull it together before state."We can compete at state if we get a couple of good doubles players," Griffenhagen said. "My expectations are to field a decent team and to work on having a good showing at state."