Provo High's Carter Mix may not get as much attention as some of the other tennis players in Region 7.
But Thursday afternoon in the finals of the region tournament, as Mix was battling Timpview's undefeated Tanner Perry, Mix had the complete undivided attention of everybody in attendance.
As many predicted would happen, Perry defeated Mix. What nobody predicted, however, was how well Mix would play in defeat.
Mix lost 7-6 (7-4), 6-1. In the first set, Mix got out to a 3-0 lead. He even held match point at 5-3 while serving up 40-love. But Perry battled back to take the game, as well as the ensuing game, to tie the set at five. Mix retook the lead at 6-5 before Perry tied it once again to send it into a tiebreaker.
In the tiebreaker, Mix fell behind 3-1 but then came back to tie the game at three. With the tiebreaker tied at four, Perry reeled off three straight points to finally finish Mix off.
In the second set, Perry returned to form to handily defeat Mix 6-1.
But Perry won't lie. In that first set, he was doubting.
"I was a little nervous," he said. "You just have to keep your cool. I was able to build momentum and finish him off."
Perry wasn't the only one who was nervous, though.
"I was feeling pressure, for sure," Mix said. "But he stepped up and I didn't step up with him. I can't feel bad losing to a guy that can play like that."
Mix attributed his success against Perry to a new attitude.
"I woke up this morning and thought 'I got nothing to lose,"' Mix said. "I think that had a huge impact."
Although some may feel Mix's ability to play Perry tough shows a chink in Perry's armor, Thunderbirds' coach Rob Sperry believes exactly the opposite.
"You're going to get at least one pressure match at state," Sperry said. "It was a very good thing for us. Having matches that are competitive is a major motivating factor. Pressure is a privilege."
Mix and Perry's match at No. 1 singles ended up being the closest match of the finals. The Thunderbirds' Cal Larson, who is the reigning state champion, defeated the Bulldogs' Nils Otterstrom 6-0, 6-1 at No. 2 singles, while Skyler Evans, also representing the Thunderbirds, defeated Mountain View's Adam Lewis 6-3, 6-1 at No. 3 singles.
The Thunderbirds defeated the Bulldogs 6-1, 6-1 at No. 1 doubles and then finished off the region sweep with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over the Bruins at No. 2 doubles. The Thunderbirds' dominating win at No. 2 doubles was also impressive considering the Bruins' pair of Regan Spencer and Mark Wolfert was undefeated this season.
"We expected to come in and fight as hard as we could," said Sperry. "I challenged the kids to treat it like a state final and they responded."
With the No. 1 seed heading into the state tournament, the Thunderbirds will have an increased edge. Sperry thinks that edge will be extra important considering how difficult Highland is expected to be.
But while the sweep at region was impressive, Sperry refuses to take anything for granted.
"It's exciting, but because of all the experience I have, I know looking forward usually hurts more than it helps," he said. "You stay focused and look forward to the next person you play."