Region 9 boys tennis: Dixie edges Desert Hills to claim regular season region title

Dixie boys tennis players celebrate their 3-2 win over Desert Hills for the regular season Region 9 title. L-R: Josh Barney, Jaydon Short, Stefan Balian, Ben Cooper, Brady Madrid, Morgan Rawlings, Ethan Emerson and head coach Ken Cooper. St. George, Utah, April 24, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Dixie High School Athletics, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — In a showdown between Region 9’s top two high school boys tennis teams, the Dixie Flyers narrowly defeated Desert Hills 3-2 Wednesday afternoon to claim the regular season region title.

Playing on their home courts, the Flyers beat Desert Hills in all three singles categories, while the Thunder won both doubles matches.

In No. 1 singles, Dixie junior Stefan Balian defeated Desert Hills freshman Liam Duffin, 6-2, 6-1. Balian, who won Wednesday’s match on his 17th birthday, is looking to qualify for the upcoming state tournament as Region 9’s top-seeded first singles player for the third year in a row. He’s likely to face stiff competition from Duffin, who is also expected to be a top contender.

In No. 2 singles, senior Ben Cooper of Dixie defeated sophomore Jacob Brown of Desert Hills, also in straight sets, 6-1, 6-2. Although Cooper is a senior, this is only his second year of high school tennis, as he has been focusing on playing competitive soccer for the past few years, said his father and head coach Ken Cooper.

The third singles match went the full three sets, with sophomore Brady Madrid of Dixie rebounding from a first-set loss to defeat Desert Hills sophomore Larson Kennedy, 2-6, 6-1, 6-2.

In No. 1 doubles, Desert Hills twins Matt and Logan Seegmiller teamed up to defeat Dixie’s Ethan Emerson and Morgan Rawlings in three sets, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.

In the second doubles spot, Braden Williams and Nui Afualo of Desert Hills cruised past Dixie’s Jaydon Short and Josh Barney in straight sets, 6-0, 6-4.

File photo of Desert Hills boys tennis team. L-R: Liam Duffin, Jacob Brown, Logan Seegmiller, Carson Miller, Nui Afualo, Matt Seegmiller, Braden Williams and head coach David Smith, St. George, Utah, March 23, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Desert Hills High School Athletics, St. George News

With the victory, Dixie finished its regular season undefeated with a 6-0 record, while Desert Hills dropped to 4-1. The Thunder still have one more makeup match left to play on Monday at Canyon View, but they are expected to finish second in Region 9. Meanwhile, the Pine View and Snow Canyon squads, which also boast some of the region’s top players, finished a respective third and fourth in the regular season standings.

Ken Cooper told St. George News that his large squad of 32 players has pushed and supported each other year round.

“They have worked hard all year to get here. It’s all about these kids, how hard they have trained, worked, pushed each other, to reach higher levels of play,” he said.

Desert Hills head coach David Smith, whose team has a 12-2 overall record so far this year, said he hopes his players will hit their peak just in time for state.

“We set a goal for ourselves to make a serious run at state this year,” Smith said.

Next week’s Region 9 state qualifying tournament, scheduled for May 3-4 at the Tonaquint Tennis Center in St. George, will determine the seedings for state. Each region’s top four finishers in each category earn a spot on the state bracket. The state 4A tournament is scheduled for the following weekend, May 10-11, at Salt Lake City’s Liberty Park.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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