Despite picking up only a handful of points from its doubles teams at last year’s state tournament, Juan Diego rode the coattails of its strong singles contingent to capture the first boys tennis title in school history.
A year later, all of those singles players are back — and this year the doubles teams are ready to hold their own.
“I have three tournament players out of the four positions in doubles, which is lucky. You don’t often get tournament players playing doubles for you,” said Juan Diego coach Arthur Miyasaki.
With a strong lineup in both singles and doubles, Juan Diego is the overwhelming favorite at this weekend’s 3A state tournament at Liberty Park. The first two rounds will be held on Friday, with the semifinals and championship matches taking place on Saturday.
Sweeping all three singles titles and both doubles titles isn’t out of the question for Juan Diego.
Soaring Eagle senior Brendon Kempin is the reigning first singles champ, while sophomore little brother Ryan Kempin won at second singles a year ago. Senior teammate Brenton Reyner won at third singles in 2013, and all three are favored to repeat.
“It doesn’t matter who my kids play, if it’s a strong school or a weaker program, they basically go out there and respect every opponent and they try their best,” said Miyasaki.
Juan Diego’s doubles teams were strengthened by a third Kempin this season. Freshman Connor Kempin and fellow freshman Ben Agrelius teamed up to win the Region 10 first doubles title. The second doubles team is led by Ryan Lowe and Rex Alley.
Standing in Juan Diego’s path for a potential title sweep is Desert Hills, which won the first and second doubles titles a year ago.
Christian Davis, who was on that title-winning first doubles team last year, and teammate Clay Hardy were perfect in Region 9 this season and are regarded as the 3A front-runner this weekend.
Desert Hills’ second doubles team of Preston Parmenter, who helped win at second doubles last year, and Austin Hardy also won the Region 9 title.
Desert Hills rode its doubles teams to a second-place team finish a year ago, but this year Dixie is hoping to do the same with its singles players.
Dixie’s singles trio of Tevan Balian, Micah Alba and Luke Heaton each captured No. 1 seeds out of Region 9 this season, and Balian and Alba have plenty of tourney experience to draw upon. Balian was the runner-up to Brendon Kempin at first singles last year, while Alba was a runner-up to Ryan Kempin at second singles.
“This is basically (Tevan’s) last competitive match. I think he’s just kind of excited where he is and confident. I think he expects to get to the finals. He’s very comfortable where he is mentally,” said Dixie coach Eric Christensen.
Heaton has never played in the state tournament, but he has plenty of shot-making ability to go on a deep run in the third singles bracket.
Despite being the obvious underdog to Juan Diego, Dixie's coach believes his athletes can be competitive if they approach each match the right way.
“Keep them focused on the technical side of it instead of the mental side of it. Point to point, what are you doing? Try to play your game. Racket speed, foot work, you only have control of what you have control of. You can only play the ball, you can’t play your opponent,” he said.
3A state tournament
Friday’s first round
Justin Ericksen, North Sanpete, Jr. vs. TJ Hatch, Morgan
Tevan Balian, Dixie, Sr. vs. Ivan Gonzales, Tooele, Jr.
Braden Sandberg, Grantsville, Jr. vs. Gabe Anderson, Desert Hills, Jr.
TJ Mayo, Park City vs. Jake Harris, Richfield, So.
Matt Douglas, Snow Canyon, Sr. vs. Taylor Francom, Bear River, Jr.
Adam Pullan, Payson, Jr. vs. Carson Gilbert, Union
Brendon Kempin, Juan Diego, Sr. vs. Derek Dunnell, Canyon View, Jr.
Logan McBride, Stansbury, Sr. vs. Zac Coonen, Cedar, Sr.
Jake Hardy, Stansbury, Jr. vs. Tanner Jones, Richfield, Sr.
Micah Alba, Dixie, Jr. vs. Brendon Wheelwright, Morgan
Ryan Kempin, Juan Diego, So. vs. Cord Johnson, Canyon View, So.
Andy Workman, North Sanpete, Jr. vs. Alex Sorensen, Bear River, Jr.
Rawson Simmons, Park City vs. Braden Evans, Desert Hills, Jr.
Evan Wride, Payson vs. Jacob Vanderwerken, Tooele, Sr.
Tyler Colson, Grantsville, Sr. vs. Matt Stewart, Cedar, Jr.
Jon Morgan, Snow Canyon, Jr. vs. Holden Hullinger, Union
Dakota Fidler, Stansbury, So. vs. Joseph Beales, Union
Jordan Ericksen, North Sanpete, Jr. vs. Nathan Obray, Pine View, Fr.
Luke Heaton, Dixie, Sr. vs. Cade Silversten, Cedar, Jr.
Connor Burke, Park City vs. Rayden Ogborn, Bear River, Fr.
Connor McArthur, Desert Hills, Fr. Vs. Jaxon Jones, Richfield, So.
Brenton Reyner, Juan Diego, Sr. vs. Jacob Nielson, Tooele, Jr.
Matt Waldron, Grantsville, So. vs. Miles Meacham, Morgan
Grant Pullan, Payson, Fr. Vs. Trevor Muse, Snow Canyon, Jr.
Matt Lindow, Sr./Patric Rawlinson, Jr., North Sanpete vs. Ben Holland/Bobby Cluff, Morgan
Clay Hardy, Sr./Christian Davis, Sr., Desert Hills vs. James Evans, Sr./Joe Evans, Sr., Bear River
Dallin Dalton, Sr./Jacob May, Sr., Grantsville vs. Nate Jones, Sr./Bryce Jones, Jr., Pine View
Jarrett Rasmussen/Austin Brooksby, Uintah vs. Skyler Fitzwater, Sr. vs. Mason Taylor, Jr., Payson
Logan Wrigley, Sr./Matt Morgan, Fr., Snow Canyon vs. Carlos Gomez, Jr./Thaddeus Mitchell, Sr., Stansbury
Curtis Jeffery, Jr./Wyatt Peterson, Jr., Richfield vs. Kade Tawnsen/David Payne, Park City
Connor Kempin, Fr./Ben Agrelius, Fr., Juan Diego vs. Ben Perkins, Sr./Lincoln Last, Sr., Hurricane
Brian Harris, Sr./Austin Sandau, Jr., Ben Lomond vs. Aren Balian, Fr./Avery Cope, Sr., Dixie
Jordan Jenkins, Sr./Alex Kimberling, Jr., Stansbury vs. Jaymin Cowley, Jr./Zane Whitmer, Jr., Carbon
Austin Hardy, So./Preston Parmenter, Sr., Desert Hills vs. Josh Williams/Matt Stringer, Uintah
Ryan Lowe, Sr./Rex Alley, So., Juan Diego vs. Caleb Featherstone, Sr./Scott Tew, Sr., Dixie
Ben Fryer, So./Benjer Palmer, Fr., North Sanpete vs. Connor Miller, So./Kris Chan, Sr., Ben Lomond.
Will Roberson/Brennan French, Park City vs. Marshall Maxwell, Sr./Austin Morris, Sr., Pine View
Adam Fullmer, Sr./Wyatt Judd, Jr., Payson vs. Josh Orton, Sr./Carsen Brewerton, Sr., Tooele
Lane Sutton, Sr./Tytan Thurgood, Jr., Grantsville vs. Blake Lawerence, Sr./JD Gates, Jr., Hurricane
Hunter McArthur, Sr./Devin Radmall, Jr., Snow Canyon vs. Nate Curtis/Christensen Elton, Morgan.