SOUTHERN UTAH – With less than three weeks left in the 2013 Region 9 boys’ tennis season and Region and State fast approaching, the competition is heating up.
The last season match will be held May 9. Once matches end, junior varsity players retire to the sidelines to cheer their teammates, leaving five varsity positions (1st, 2nd and 3rd singles and 1st and 2nd doubles) to compete at Region.
“I am hoping our team does great,” Dixie JV player Lance Martin, 17, said. “I think we have a great chance at winning.”
At Region, a round-robin series of matches will be played over two days, with the five highest-seeded schools in each position advancing to State, where they will then compete against other 3A regional qualifiers from throughout Utah.
Despite an average record, coach Dow Christenson said that his team has shown a hunger to improve throughout the season. Going into Region, his goal is for each player to earn the highest seed possible in hopes of scoring well at State.
Desert Hills is regarded as one of the strongest competitors in Region 9 and won State in 2009, 2010 and 2011; Christenson said he believes another win is within reach. Acknowledging the difficulty of a clean sweep, the team’s plan is to win both doubles positions and earn as many points as they can in the singles positions.
“Our biggest threat is ourselves. We’ve got to get ready for State mentally,” Christenson said. “We need to learn to trust ourselves, play our shots and allow the other team to make the mistakes.”
“I have been playing very well,” Ryan McGinnis, 15, said. “My school has been playing great. My goal for the rest of the season is for us to win (our remaining matches) and Region.”
The season has been filled with ups and downs for Dixie, including injuries that plagued three varsity players. Coach Eric Christensen said that his two strongest competitors have been 1st singles Tevan Balian and 2nd singles Micah Alba.
The team’s goal for Region is to qualify all positions for State in the best seeds possible. But Christensen said it won’t happen unless 3rd singles and 1st and 2nd doubles, who have struggled with consistency throughout the season, can deliver a series of solid performances.
Going into State, Christensen said he views Juan Diego High School as Dixie’s biggest threat due to players like Brendon Kempin, who won 1st singles last year and has already been accepted to the University of Notre Dame on a tennis scholarship, and younger brother Ryan Kempin in 2nd singles.
“Snow Canyon, Desert Hills, Park City and Spanish Fork will also be very good,” Christensen said. “Anything can happen.”
With a dead-even season record so far, coach Marc Manuele said his main goal for his team is to win their last four matches before Region and qualify every position for State.
Hurricane finished strong last year, but after the graduation of five of their varsity players, the team has struggled to adjust.
“We are continuing to improve,” Manuele said. “We know we still have to get better to meet our goals.”
Pine View has not earned a single team victory so far this season, though their singles and doubles players have won several individual matches.
“We have had a lot of ups and downs,” coach Dave Crawford said. “We can’t seem to put wins together at the same time. Our record is definitely not what we had hoped for up to this point.”
At Region, Crawford said the team’s goal is to qualify every position for State, which they will have to perform better to achieve.
“Our goal has been and continues to be to get better every time we step on the court,” Crawford said. “Fortunately, the boys continue to work hard every day. We could have easily just given up, but they have never done that and it is appreciated.”
Undefeated so far this season, Snow Canyon now is taking aim at the Region title.
“There is still room for improvement, of course, but I am very impressed with how hard our team is working,” coach Jeremy Atkin said. “There are some tough teams and we will need to play our best.”
Atkin said Dixie and Desert Hills pose the largest threats on the court, but his players‘ mental game is equally challenging. Despite this, he is confident that Snow Canyon will earn a strong finish at State.
“There are some great players this year, but I feel that if we play smart and play our cards right, we can compete for first,” Atkin said.
With a season record of 3-9, coach Zach Hathaway said, “There have definitely been some times when I felt like we could have been more competitive and won more for the team.”
However, Hathaway is confident in his young team’s potential and desire to develop their skills.
“My goal for our final matches is to see improvement from each of my players in the things that we have been focusing on lately,” he said. “I want to pick up as many wins in each of the positions as we can to better our record in Region and eventually State.”
Cedar has faced many tough matches throughout the season, forcing coach Jeremiah Sullivan’s players to think on their feet and use every skill.
“Some of the other schools have a lot more talent than us and we have to resort with pure tenacity to come out with some wins and I am proud of them for that,” he said.
Sullivan said his goal for Region and State is to have fun and leave everything out on the courts, with no regrets.
“I think if we can achieve these goals, then we will be winners,” he said. “No matter what the score is, they need to believe in what they are doing.”
Region will be held May 10 and 11 at the Canyon View High School and Southern Utah University courts in Cedar City.
State will be held May 17 and 18 at the Green Valley Spa courts in St. George.
Both tournaments are overseen by the Utah High School Activities Association. For more information on Region 9 or Utah high school tennis, visit the UHSAA website.
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