Region 9 tennis: Desert Hills, Dixie qualify entire teams for state; Pine View also strong

Desert Hills' Matt Seegmiller serves as his twin brother, Logan Seegmiller, is positioned at the net during the No. 1 doubles finals against Pine View in the Region 9 championship tournament, St. George, Utah, May 4, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Desert Hills and Dixie high schools both fared well at the Region 9 boys tennis championships held last Friday and Saturday at Tonaquint Tennis Center, with both schools qualifying their entire teams for this coming weekend’s state 4A tournament.

Jacob Brown of Desert Hills warms up before the No. 2 singles finals in the Region 9 championship tournament, St. George, Utah, May 4, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

Additionally, four other Region 9 schools qualified one or more athletes for state, with Pine View qualifying both of its doubles teams and two of its singles players, Hurricane qualifying both of its doubles teams, Snow Canyon qualifying two singles players and Canyon View qualifying one player in No. 2 singles.

Although Dixie defeated Desert Hills in a dual region match right as the season wrapped up late last month to lay claim to the Region 9 regular season title, Desert Hills held a slight edge over the rival Flyers in last weekend’s tournament. The two teams met each other in two of the finals singles matches, with each winning one. Each also played in one doubles final against Pine View, with Desert Hills winning their match against the Panthers and Dixie losing theirs.

It was the No. 1 doubles match between Desert Hills and Pine View that proved to be the most exciting match of the tournament, with the Thunder’s twin seniors Logan and Matt Seegmiller coming back from being behind 5-1 in the final set to defeat Pine View duo Jon Fairbanks and Mitchell Erekson.

“After losing the first set 3-6, the Thunder were at 4-all in the second set but down love-40 on Logan Seegmiller’s serve,” Desert Hills head coach Dave Smith said. “Winning five consecutive points, the Thunder rode the momentum and took the second set 7-5, after breaking Erekson’s serve.” 

Dixie’s Ben Cooper warms up before the No. 2 singles finals in the Region 9 championship tournament, St. George, Utah, May 4, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

The Pine View duo then bounced back and took a commanding 5-1 lead in the final set, thanks to a combination of well-executed returns and volleys by both Panther players.

“The Desert Hills team refused to roll over and held serve at love and went on to break, hold and break again to gain an unlikely lead at 6-5,” Smith continued, adding, “Erekson held serve to force the final-set tiebreaker, during which the Panthers quickly went ahead 2-0. Again, the Seegmillers not only fought back but went up 6-3 in the breaker. Holding off two match points, Erekson and Fairbanks got as close as 5-6 before Logan Seegmiller hit a powerful kick serve to Erekson, whose return floated wide by three inches.”

Smith called it “one of the greatest comebacks I’ve enjoyed coaching.”

“Both teams brought out the best in each other, and it was an incredible match, no matter who won.”

For third place in No. 1 doubles, Dixie’s Ethan Emerson and Morgan Rawlings held off Hurricane’s Preston Ducrest and Ethan Lawrence, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.

In the No. 2 doubles finals match, Pine View’s Gibson Crawford and Jared Sudweeks defeated Dixie’s Jaydon Short and Josh Barney in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2.

“Pine View’s team is a really good team this year,” Dixie head coach Ken Cooper said. “Kudos to the two boys. They played an excellent match.”

Also in No. 2 doubles, Braden Williams and Nui Afualo of Desert Hills took out Hurricane’s Zac Maag and Brandon Langston, 6-2, 6-2 to claim third place, while Maag and Langston defeated Dylan Beck and Leo Bloxham of Snow Canyon 6-1, 6-2 for fourth place.

In a showdown between two of the region’s top players in the No. 1 singles finals, Desert Hills freshman Liam Duffin defeated Dixie junior Stefan Balian, 6-4, 5-7, 3-1.

Pine View’s Jared Sudweeks and Gibson Crawford warm up before the second doubles finals in the Region 9 championship tournament, St. George, Utah, May 4, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

Balian had defeated Duffin in straight sets at Dixie a couple weeks earlier, but this time the freshman turned the tables and won the first set 6-4. Balian then squared the match by capturing the second set, 7-5.

“Nearly every point featured rallies of 10 to 20 shots,” Smith said. “The afternoon sun took a lot out of both players, but they didn’t flinch. It wasn’t until Duffin went up 2-1 in the final set before the heat and exertion took its toll on Balian, who got severe cramps in his quads while serving in the fourth game of the final set. After a good return by Duffin to take that game, Balian limped over and shook Duffin’s hand, as the cramps made it impossible for him to continue.”

Cooper said they had tried to alleviate Balian’s leg cramping earlier, but the problem just seemed to get worse.

“I told him his health was more important than trying to see this through,” Cooper said. “We needed to stop and see if he was OK. They were both striking the ball well. It was a fun match. Congratulations to Liam. He is a great player.”

Also in No. 1 singles, Taylor Heinz of Snow Canyon took third place with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Pine View’s Kaden Koch, who finished fourth.

In No. 2 singles, Dixie senior Ben Cooper, the coach’s son, rolled to a 6-0, 6-3 win over Jacob Brown of Desert Hills.

On a light note, Ken Cooper said the small beard he started growing has been a good luck charm of sorts for his son, who improved his overall season record to 19-2.

Desert Hills team members with their respective medals from the Region 9 championship tournament, St. George, Utah, May 4, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Desert Hills High Athletics, St. George News

“He won’t let me shave it. He thinks by rubbing it between the changeovers it brings him good luck!”

He added that his son is playing well and “should be a contender for his classification next week.” 

Brown, who ended up with the second seed for state, made it to the final by getting past Canyon View’s Cooper Robertson, who had defeated Brown the day before in their final team match at Canyon View in Cedar City. Brown won the rematch on Friday, 6-2, 7-5.

Meanwhile, Robertson went on to lose to Snow Canyon’s Zach Sodorff on Saturday, with Sodorff taking third place in the bracket and Robertson finishing fourth.

In the No. 3 singles finals, top-seeded Lucas Jensen of Snow Canyon defeated Carson Kennedy of Desert Hills, 6-1, 6-0. Dixie’s Brady Madrid finished third and Tyne Clark of Pine View took fourth.

The top four finishers from each of the region tournament brackets will represent Region 9 at state next week held at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City Friday and Saturday, with action scheduled to start around 9 a.m. both days. Click here to see full brackets, including seedings, opponents and total team scores, to be updated throughout the state tournament.

Ken Cooper said he believes Region 9 will be represented well this week.

“We have a really strong region for tennis,” he said. “The fact that we have six different schools represented at the state tournament from Region 9 shows how deep we are as a region this year. There are great players, great coaches and great programs here in Southern Utah.”

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