ST.GEORGE – As the Region 9 girls tennis teams charge through the season, players and coaches predict that the battle for region and state will be a fierce one, where every point counts.
Region gathers the five varsity positions (first, second and third singles and first and second doubles) from each school to compete against one another in a round-robin style tournament. The top five finishers in each position will advance to the 3A State Tournament in October. But as lower seeded players immediately face higher seeded players from other regions, a good region result is at the forefront of players’ and coaches’ minds.
“Seeding is everything at State,” Desert Hills coach Dow Christenson said. “Of course we want to win (Region), but getting (all our) kids into good seeds for State is the most important part.”
Desert Hills has long been known for its heavy hitters: The boys team took State in 2010 and 2011 and the girls in 2009 and 2010. Christenson said that while this year’s players haven’t reached that level of expertise yet, their commitment and desire to win are just as strong.
The first doubles team of Taylor Cooney and Paige Harris have an 8-0 season record so far, having battled through several tight matches to remain on top. Their goal is to stay undefeated through Region 9 and not let the pressure get to them.
“We need to go into it thinking that (those matches) are just like any other,” Cooney said. “We just (have) to stay focused and remember the good things about our game.”
Snow Canyon currently has the best overall record of the Region 9 schools, 8-1. The Warriors only loss was to Pine View, who, after being soundly defeated in their first meeting, finally upset the Warriors.
“That was a big win,” coach Jessica Stout said.
Rather than another school, Stout said that she feels her players’ biggest challenge in getting through region play is nerves.
“When players are tense, they tighten up their strokes and (make errors),” she said. “We are always working on being mentally tougher, keeping up our energy and staying focused.”
The focus seems to have paid off for second singles player Keri Jeppson.
“We’re a stronger team due to stronger players,” she said.
Perhaps the biggest question mark of the season is which first singles player will come out on top. Pine View’s Lacey Hancock had a stellar 2011 and blazed through the competition to take State as a freshman, a rare feat. She has remained undefeated this year as well.
Dixie heavyweight Cydnee Wilkinson fell short of the title last year by mere points and is now seeking to reclaim it from Hancock. Now a senior, this will be her last chance to do so.
Both will have to get past Franchesca Eklund, who has emerged as a standout for Snow Canyon. She is only 14-years-old, but is already showing strokes that can contend with Hancock’s and Wilkinson’s.
“First singles is always tough,” Christenson said. “There’s a lot of kids that are incredible.”
Christenson said that at State, every position from every school will be facing a mammoth obstacle in Judge Memorial Catholic High School, which took the title last year and is returning with all the same players. He expects Region to be a battle between Desert Hills, Dixie, Snow Canyon and Pine View, with many difficult matches.
“All four of our teams are well-matched and every time we play, it’s tough,” he said. “It’s good because playing with that intensity helps prepare everyone for State. We’d rather play (challenging) region matches than walk through and then get crushed at State.”
Dates: Sept. 28 and 29
Times: 9 a.m. to finish of last match
Location: Green Valley Spa, St. George
Contact: Ken Cooper – (435) 879-9456
Dates: Oct. 5 and 6
Times: 8:30 a.m. to finish of last match
Location: Liberty Park Tennis Facility, Salt Lake City
Contact: Becky Anderson – (801) 566-0633
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2012, all rights reserved.