Desert Hills wins Region 9 tennis title, will head to state as a top favorite

Averee Beck of Desert Hills returns a serve against Dixie during the No. 2 doubles final at the Region 9 tournament, St. George, Utah, Sept. 22, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The Desert Hills High School girls tennis team won the Region 9 championship Saturday, winning first place in four of the five competition brackets and taking second in the other.

Desert Hills players pose with medals and trophy after winning the Region 9 tennis tournament, St. George, Utah, Sept. 22, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Desert Hills High School Tennis, St. George News

The two-day tournament, which was staged at the Tonaquint Tennis Center in St. George Friday and Saturday, featured players from all seven Region 9 schools, seeded according to their regular-season won-loss records.

The Lady Thunder made it to Saturday’s finals in all five categories, with Desert Hills facing Pine View in all three singles brackets and Desert Hills matching up against Dixie in both doubles finals.

In the only match of the tournament not won by a Desert Hills player, Pine View freshman Taylor Parsley defeated Desert Hills junior Mo Behymer in No. 1 singles, 6-2, 6-2.

Behymer had beaten Parsley in their regular-season matchup at Desert Hills, but Pine View coach Dave Crawford noted that Parsley had beaten Behymer twice in non-region tournament play, including once before the season started.

“Taylor is a great player,” Crawford said. “Mo is a tough competitor as well, and it makes for great matches.”

In second singles, Desert Hills sophomore Mackenzie Telford fought off set point in her first set against Pine View’s Brielle Callahan. Callahan led 5-4 at one point in the first set, but Telford came back to win the match in two sets,  7-5, 6-3.

L-R: Cassidy Kohler and Faith Hess compete in the finals of first doubles against Dixie during the Region 9 tournament, St. George, Utah, Sept. 22, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

“Mackenzie is by far the smallest competitor in probably all of state, coming in at about 90 pounds,” Desert Hills head coach Dave Smith said, adding, “She has the fight and determination of a bulldog. She goes out and shows absolutely no fear, and she has proven this time and time again.”

In the No. 3 singles spot, Desert Hills sophomore Tia Turley continued her incredible season by defeating Pine View’s Cameron Miner, 6-4, 6-4. Turley came from behind 1-4 in the first set and 1-3 in the second to win both and improve her overall season record to 26-1.

In first doubles, Desert Hills juniors Cassidy Kohler and Faith Hess were pitted against Dixie’s Angela Crooks and Ashley Stephens, who had beaten Kohler and Hess in three sets in the final regular season match at Dixie High. Desert Hills still won that day as a team, 4-1, but it marked the only time the Lady Thunder didn’t get a 5-0 sweep against a Region 9 foe all season.

This time around, however, the Desert Hills duo prevailed in a hard-fought battle, 6-4, 6-4.

Although Dixie jumped out to early leads in both sets, the Thunder pair buckled down and fought to regain the lead, Smith said.

“Down 1-3 in the first set, Hess and Kohler fought to gain a 5-4 advantage and close out the set with a break of serve with exciting net points that features fast hands and reflexes by all four girls,” Smith said, adding, “In the second set, the Flyers again jumped out to a commanding 4-1 lead, only to watch the Thunder girls reel off five straight games to win the match.”

Pine View freshman Taylor Parsley poses after winning the No. 1 singles title at the Region 9 tennis tournament, St. George, Utah, Sept. 22, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Pine View High School Tennis, St. George News

In second doubles, Desert Hills freshman Averee Beck and senior Lyndsi Graf teamed up to defeat Dixie’s Annie Heaton and Mychaella Wisneski in straight sets in their final, 6-1, 6-1. Graf drilled several aces and delivered blazing passing shots that had their opponents ducking to avoid being hit, her coach said, adding that Graf’s hard-hitting prowess, coupled with Beck’s topspin forehands and poaching volleys should help make the Thunder pair a favorite at next week’s state tournament.

The top Region 9 state qualifiers in each of the five categories are listed at the bottom of this article. Each will be seeded accordingly in next week’s state 4A championship tournament, a two-day event scheduled for next Thursday and Saturday (Sept. 27 and 29) at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City. The tournament features 16 entries in each bracket, with individuals or doubles pairs needing to win four matches over the two days to win the championship. The team championship is based on how well team’s entrants do collectively across the five brackets. Click here to see all of the brackets for this year’s tournament.

At state next week, Desert Hills will be looking to unseat Park City as the defending state 4A champions. The Lady Thunder finished runner-up to the Lady Miners last year.

Coach Smith noted that Desert Hills has already beaten Park City twice this year, dominating the Miners at the Lone Peak Invitational and again at the second Stephen Wade Invitational tournament.

Averee Beck serves against Dixie during the No. 2 doubles final at the Region 9 tournament, St. George, Utah, Sept. 22, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

During the three years Smith has been at the helm as head coach, the Lady Thunder have won three undefeated region titles and have finished third and second in state, respectively. This year, Smith says he hopes to not just win state, but to establish Desert Hills as the team to beat for years ahead.

Although the Lady Thunder have just one senior among their top seven players (Graf), the team will still be taking plenty of experience with them into state next week, as five of their top seven all reached the semifinals or better at last year’s state competition.

“We still have a lot of work ahead of us,” Smith said. “We have moved from being the underdog to the dominant team in state. That puts a target on our head, something that I believe our girls look forward to defending to the teeth.”

Region 9 girls tennis championship results (top four in each category qualify for state tournament)

First singles

  1. Taylor Parsley, Pine View
  2. Mo Behymer, Desert Hills
  3. Ashley Kezos, Dixie
  4. Shayli Habibian, Snow Canyon

Second singles

  1. Mackenzie Telford, Desert Hills
  2. Brielle Callahan, Pine View
  3. Kalli Beckstrom, Dixie
  4. Ellie Ericksen, Snow Canyon

Third singles

  1. Tia Turley, Desert Hills
  2. Cameron Miner, Pine View
  3. Lily Bronson, Snow Canyon
  4. Becca Little, Dixie

First doubles

  1. Faith Hess and Cassidy Kohler, Desert Hills
  2. Angela Crooks and Ashley Stevens, Dixie
  3. Olivia Obray and Katrina Hafen, Pine View
  4. Bailee Southam and Haven Healy, Snow Canyon

Second doubles

  1. Lyndsi Graf and Averee Beck, Desert Hills
  2. Mychaella Wisneske and Annie Heaton, Dixie
  3. Brianne Leach and Sophie Smith, Snow Canyon
  4. Kate Church and Gabby Hafen, Pine View

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.


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