As the girls high school tennis season gets under way, it appears it will be built on defending championships won last year. The strength of the powerhouses has only grown as demonstrated by the roster of the Skyline Eagles, which boasts over 30 players, and Rowland Hall. The 2007 2A/1A champions are a senior-heavy squad with six of 13 players starting their final season.

5A: Senior MaryAnne Macfarlane of Weber High returns to defend her individual state championship from 2007. However, Alta's Aubrey Paul, who took second to Macfarlane, is ready to make that title her own. "(Paul) is a really strong player, she has a good chance to win it all." said Joanie Daily, head coach of Skyline High, the runners-up in 5A last season.

In team competition, the defending champion Alta Hawks are also looking to keep their crown, "and there's no reason to believe they won't be able to do it," said rival head coach John La Cognata of Lone Peak. Bingham, Lone Peak, and Skyline have also emerged as contenders.

4A: The East Leopards have shifted their strength into doubles teams this season and are still expected to put up big numbers in the team events. The question in 4A: What will become of the Pine View Panthers?

When the new 3A Desert Hills High opened in St. George, the Panthers' state champion tennis coach migrated to the new school, and a handful of his players followed. Now the fate of the Pine View squad is very hard to predict.

3A: After acquiring such an experienced and successful coach, the Desert Hills Thunder will be a force at state. In addition to the Thunder, Park City High, which took third last season, returned its top three players this season: Ali McMahon, Kylie Peek and Tessa Wray in first, second and third singles, respectively.

Juan Diego is still the heavy favorite, however, with a loaded roster that is topped off by senior Paige Miles. She is making her debut at number one singles this season and "is a three-time state champion and undefeated in her high school career," said Juan Diego head coach Arthur Miyazaki. Miles is being heavily recruited by many colleges throughout the country, including the University of Utah.

2A/1A: Rowland Hall and St. Joseph are two of the best again. They tied for the state title a year ago and will ultimately battle another time. Individually, Rowland Hall senior Blake Harries is at the top of her game. A two-time state champion in number two singles as a freshman and sophomore, Harries fell to Lauren Jones of St. Joseph as a junior in her first season playing number one singles. "(Harries) is the most gifted player I've coached on the girls side," Rowland Hall head coach Tim Sleeper said. Now in her last season, Harries is ready for one more chance.


E-mail: sthomas@desnews.com