SALT LAKE CITY — There’s an uncertain, yet fascinating element surrounding this weekend’s 5A boys tennis state tournament that’s been lacking for quite some time: The team title isn’t a foregone conclusion.
Seven-time state champion Brighton has been king of 5A tennis for a very long time, but many believe Viewmont is poised to dethrone the champs.
“I don’t know if we’re the team to beat or not. We haven’t played Brighton, and haven’t seen them play this year. But we are excited,” said Viewmont coach Mark Burningham. “This is something we’ve been looking forward to all year. The kids have been talking about state all year. It’s been the goal.”
Brighton beat Viewmont by just four points at last year’s state meet, but many expect a role reversal at Liberty Park this Friday and Saturday.
It would be foolish, however, to consider the Bengals a championship afterthought. Even though their singles aren’t as strong as years past, their doubles teams are very good, and there’s still definitely a scenario in which the Bengals could win their state-record eighth-straight 5A title.
Brighton coach Natalie Aposhian said her players are feeling good ahead of the state tournament, but she’s trying not to get them too caught up in looking beyond Friday morning’s first round.
“We’re just going to stay focused. You have to take one match at a time. I looked at the draws today, and you can look ahead to where you’re supposed to meet people, but there are other rounds you have to go through to where Brighton would play Viewmont,” said Aposhian.
Viewmont and Brighton could easily meet in all five matches, but only the doubles teams have the potential to meet in the finals. Their singles teams are on the same side of the bracket, a big reason the Vikes are the favorite.
Viewmont’s Sam Tullis and Jacob Tullis are the prohibitive favorites at first and second singles this weekend, with neither expected to drop a set en route to the titles. Sam Tullis is the defending first singles champion, while his younger brother Jacob Tullis lost in the second singles championship match last year as a freshman.
Burningham has been very impressed by their continued commitment this season.
“Sam and Jacob, they have continued to find ways to improve, continue to put forth the effort and dedication,” said Burningham.
Cottonwood’s Zeke Richards lost to Sam Tullis at first singles last year, 6-4, 6-3, and the bracket is set up for them to meet in the final again.
Third singles is much more up in the air, which may ultimately determine the team title. Brighton freshman Chase Stoner and Viewmont senior Nic Lebaron are poised to meet in the semifinals. It’s tough to put a favorite tag on either of them. A Viewmont win would all but clinch the title, whereas if Stoner wins he’d have to turn right back around in the championship match and likely face Alta’s Connor Pulsipher, who he’s already lost to.
Scenarios like that are where Aposhian said state tournaments are unpredictable.
“State is a different beast. There’s pressure at state that’s different than anything these kids have ever dealt with unless they’ve been to state,” she said.
With Viewmont expected to sweep first and second singles, Brighton realistically needs to do the same with first and second doubles to have a shot at coveted title No. 8. The Bengals’ first-doubles team features freshman Mitchell Mansell and sophomore Anthony Panuzio, and their second-doubles team includes freshman Cheyenne Perry and Brandon Budge.
Budge won a state title at first doubles, but the other three are all state tourney newbies.
Viewmont’s first doubles team of seniors Ethan Hymas and Isaac Ford finished second last year, but they’re more than capable of taking the next step this year.
Not as much is expected of Viewmont’s second doubles team of Zach Beckstrand and Brandon Kasparian, but their success is just as important as their teammates if the Vikings are to unseat Brighton.
5A State Tournament
Friday’s First Round
Cody Crandall, Brighton, Sr. vs. Garrett Rich, Bingham, Jr.
Colton McBride, Weber, Sr. vs. Remi Prince, Taylorsville, Soph.
Sam Tullis, Viewmont, Jr. vs. CJ Ercanbrach, Davis, Jr.
Hayden de Hoyos, Pleasant Grove, Jr. vs. Mikulus Thomas, Alta, Soph.
Cody Phonharath, Hunter, Sr. vs. Jordan Slater, Fremont, Sr.
Brocton Andrus, Lone Peak, Fr. Vs. Mathias Choque, West Jordan, Sr.
Zeke Richards, Cottonwood , Sr. vs. Mike Garcia, Lehi, Sr.
Doug Graff, Northridge, Sr. vs. Jason Chen, West, Sr.
Justin Mansell, Brighton, Sr. vs. Jake Harris, Pleasant Grove, Soph.
Devon Wells, Layton, Sr. vs. Tanner Foy, Hunter, Jr.
Jacob Tullis, Viewmont, Soph. vs. Taylor Dawson, Northridge, Sr.
Blair Robbins, Lone Peak, Sr. vs. Tanner Poulson, Cottonwood, Sr.
Phillip Vernon, West, Sr. vs. Brady Carlson, Weber, Sr.
McKay Luu, Lehi, Jr. vs. Diego Barajas, West Jordan, Sr.
Andy Ovard, Alta, Sr. vs. Zach Siddoway, Bingham, Sr.
Garrett Wilkes, Davis, Jr. vs. Mike Frazier, Taylorsville, Sr.
Chase Stoner, Brighton, Fr. vs. Nick Olsen, Pleasant Grove, Jr.
Michael Moody, Davis, Fr. vs. Hayden Turner, Hunter, Jr.
Nic LeBaron, Viewmont, Sr. vs. Carston Henderson, Northridge, Sr.
Jack Aubrey, Bingham, Jr. vs. Spencer Thurgood, Cottonwood, Sr.
David Murrell, West, Sr. vs. Jacob Lawson, Weber, Sr.
Derek Schetselaar, Lone Peak, Jr. vs. Keyen Neal, West Jordan, Jr.
Connor Pulsipher, Alta, Jr. vs. Keaton Mathis, Lehi, Soph.
Tommy Glende, Layton, Sr. vs. Remington Larson, Kearns, Sr.
Parker Roberts, Sr./Robert Avila, Sr., Alta vs. Ammon Story, Sr./Ben Bearss, Sr., Lone Peak
Cooper Brown, Sr./Michael vonBallmoos, Sr., Davis vs. Andy Larsen, Sr./Taylor Barton, Sr., Taylorsville
Ethan Hymas, Sr./Isaac Ford, Sr., Viewmont vs. Mitchell Adamson, Sr./Ben Graff, Fr., Northridge
Parker Judd, Sr./Hunter Wilson, Sr., American Fork vs. Jonas Jones, Sr./McKay Nilsen, Sr., Jordan
Devin Richie, Sr./Daniel Liu, Jr., West vs. Spencer Anderson, Sr./Maverick Denhalter, Sr., Layton
Parker Howell, Sr./Ty Burke, Jr., Riverton vs. Gus Stevens, Fr./Cory Trivett, Sr., Cottonwood
Anthony Panuzio, Soph./Mitchell Mansell, Fr., Brighton vs. Tyler White, Sr./Matt Sorensen, Jr., Bingham
Bryce Pierson, Sr./Matt Kendell, Sr., Weber vs. Willie Peterson, Sr./Eric LeMoine, Jr., Hunter
David West, Jr./Jordan Branch, Sr., Alta vs. Parker Evans, Sr./Matt Tobler, Jr., Bingham
Josh Wolfey, Sr./Justin Needham, Sr., Layton vs. Derek Dapp, Jr./Nathan Hubner, Jr., Granger, 3-7
Zach Beckstrand, Sr./Brandon Kasparian, Sr., Viewmont vs. Bryson Hales, Sr./Mark Frame, Jr., Fremont
Juan Jose Amaya, Jr./Tyler Miller, Fr., Lehi vs. Nick Schindler, Sr./Bennett Garden, Sr., Jordan
Blake Allred, Sr./Easton Batt, Soph., Hunter vs. Dominic Emerson, Soph./Jacob Poyner, Sr., Weber
Matt Zwick, Sr./Lucas Wale, Sr., Lone Peak vs. Taylor Nelson, Sr./Jordan Evans, Jr., Jordan
Brandon Budge, Sr./Cheyenne Perry, Fr., Brighton vs. Stephen Sheffield, Fr./Christian Olsen, Fr., Pleasant Grove
John Vellinga, Jr./Connor Fox, Fr., Davis vs. Patrick Chen, Soph./Jiayi Ge, Jr., West