Prep tennis: Balian into 1st singles semis; Region 9 dominates doubles

Dixie's Stefan Balian, file photo by Kevin Luthy, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY – Dixie’s Stefan Balian was the only 1st Singles player from Region 9 to survive the first day of the state 3A tennis tournament at Liberty Park.

Dixie’s Stefan Balian, file photo by Robert Hoppie,, St. George News

Balian won both of his matches in impressive fashion and will play in Saturday morning’s semifinal against Bear River’s Steffen Rigby for the chance to play for the state title. Rigby is the defending state champ. The freshman Balian won twice, but the other three 1st Singles players from the region didn’t make it past the first round.

In fact, the only other Region 9 singles netter to survive the first day was Desert Hills junior Jake Hardy at 3rd Singles. He’ll play Rayden Ogborn of Bear River in the 3rd Singles semifinals first thing Saturday.

But, while only two of 12 singles players from southern Utah survived to the semis, things went much better for the Region 9 doubles teams. Of the eight remaining doubles duos, six hail from southern Utah.

At 1st Doubles, region champs Conner McArthur and Josh James of Desert Hills won both their matches in straight sets. They’ll play the Park City duo of Charlie Lambert and Alex Burkemper in one semifinal. Lambert-Burkemper needed three sets to defeat Region 9’s No. 4 seed, Hyrum Sorensen and Gibson Crawford of Pine View.

On the other side of the 1st Doubles bracket, the duo of Matt Morgan and Broden Lund dropped just two games in four sets in getting to the semifinals. They’ll play Region 9’s Daniel Bethers and Carson Bottema (Dixie) in the other semifinal. Bethers-Bottema won both their matches in straight sets to set up the Region 9 semi at state.

Desert Hills’ Conner McArthur and Josh James, file photo by Kevin Luthy, St. George News

Morgan and Lund have been playing as a doubles team for just 2 1/2 weeks, but Snow Canyon coach Jeremy Atkin said the improvement in that short period of time has been remarkable.

“Matt is the best singles player in the state, but he is committed and I think he has become the best doubles player I’ve seen in a long time,” Atkin said. “I like that he still has a singles mentality, especially at the net. He goes for every ball. The only thing he’s had a hard time with is remembering he has a partner and that partner is really good. Once they learned to trust each other, they have been unstoppable.”

At 2nd doubles, Snow Canyon got a huge upset when No. 4 seeded Tanner Deal and Cade Thorkelson knocked off Park City’s Quinn Decesaris and Colton Stephens in the first round, 6-4, 6-3. Deal-Thorkelson then ripped through the quarterfinals with a 6-0, 6-1 pasting of Logan’s Jack Clifton and Michael Summers.

“Tanner and Cade for sure understood the game plan going in,” said SC coach Jeremy Atkin. “We kind of knew what we needed to do to take advantage of some weaknesses in the Park City team. We knew they hit big balls, they hit it really hard with their forehands. But our guys’ reaction at the net is just incredible. You can’t hit a ball through these guys. They formed a great wall. That was definitely the big story of the day for us.”

Snow Canyon’s Cade Thorkelson (left) and Broden Lund, file photo by Robert Hoppie,, St. George News

Deal-Thorkelson will play a familiar foe in Pine View’s Futo Ide and Nathan Obray in one semifinal. The top seeded duo from Region 9 lost just one game in the first round in a two-set sweep of Grantsville. But Ide-Obray needed to gut out a 7-5, 7-5 quarterfinal win over the Ridgeline duo of Eric Ellis and Decker Robinson to advance to the semis.

On the lower half of the 2nd Doubles bracket, No. 2 seeded Noah Thompson and Ethan Anderson from Desert Hills won in straight sets in the first round, then had a three set thriller in the quarterfinals. Thompson-Anderson beat the top-seeded Bear River duo of Tyson Hewlitt and Aaron Evans 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 to get to the semifinals. They’ll play Stansbury’s TJ Thomsen and Brady Kimberling in the other 2nd Doubles semifinal.

Park City leads the team race by a point over Bear River and two points over Desert Hills and Ridgeline. Pine View, Snow Canyon and Stansbury are three points behind, but with a bulk of the points being earned on the second day, the Miners look like the favorite to take the team title. Park City has a semifinalist in every category except 2nd Doubles. Bear River also has a shot with semifinalists in all three singles categories.

3A State Tennis bracket

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