ST. GEORGE — The high school girls tennis teams from Crimson Cliffs and Desert Hills know each other pretty well by now, and both the Mustangs and the Thunder will send several players to next weekend’s 4A state championship.
While Crimson Cliffs won the regular season Region 10 title, the Thunder took the team victory at Friday and Saturday’s Region 10 tournament at the Tonaquint Tennis Center.
On the second day of the tournament, four of the five championship matches featured Crimson Cliffs players against Desert Hills players.
The only exception was in No. 1 singles, where Dixie High School’s Kylie Kezos continued her unbeaten season with a 7-5, 6-2 win over Desert Hill’s Malika Maxwell.
After her win Kezos told St. George News that the first set was a real battle, then she was able to get into a groove in the second set.
“Yeah, for sure. She (Maxwell) played really well in region, and she definitely stepped up her game today,” Kezos said. “I feel like I played pretty well this season. I just think that I’ve kept growing and growing.”
While Crimson Cliffs and Desert Hills duked it out during the season, Dixie’s team improved despite adversity.
“We’ve struggled a little bit. We’ve had to change our team multiple times because of injury and because of COVID and different things,” Kezos said. “But I think the lineup that we have now best supports our team.”
The matchup at No. 2 singles faced Crimson Cliffs’ Cami Stanger against Desert Hill’s Kasia Wittwer. Stanger won the hard-fought match 7-5, 6-4.
“I thought that it was really tough. And it was really tough last time we played, too,” Stanger said. “So I’m looking forward to playing at state, hopefully we get to play each other again because it’s always a good match against Kasia.”
Crimson Cliffs coach Colin Brown said Stanger’s performance was typical of her play all season.
“I can rely on Cami. She’s just very consistent,” Brown said. “She gets the ball back and knows how to deal with the ups and downs of a match, so she’s just an excellent player.”
At No. 3 singles, Desert Hill’s Brianna Hartman won the first set against Crimson Cliff’s Mandy Beckstrand 6-1, then rallied from a 4-1 deficit in the second set to win 6-4 for the victory.
“I felt really good the first set, I was really comfortable playing my game. I was hitting my shots and in control,” Hartman said. “Then in the second set I was down and my coach just told me, ‘Come on, let’s go,’ so I came back and it was a really good experience for me.”
Hartman added that Beckstrand is a good friend and their matches are always close.
“Today I just didn’t want it to go three sets, so I had to really dial it in and just hit my shots and be in control,” Hartman said.
In the No. 1 doubles match, the Crimson Cliffs duo of Gabby Hafen and London Wunderli did what they’ve done all year, dominate. They beat Brooklyn Price and Megan Lewis from Desert Hills 6-1, 6-0.
“They’re the reigning state champions from last year, so they’ve played a lot together and are just a really good team,” Brown said.
The contest at No. 2 doubles produced the match of the day. Crimson Cliff’s Whitney Matheson and Bailey Speakman were ahead for much of the first set before Desert Hills duo Taylee Anderson and Tessa Fielding rallied and forced a tiebreak at 6-6.
“We’ve wanted to beat them so bad,” Fielding said. “So what we did was, we just mixed it up. Every time we made it so that they didn’t expect what was happening. Then we found what worked and found what didn’t and then we stuck to that.”
Anderson and Fielding won the tiebreak 7-3 and then went on to win a tough second set 6-3.
Desert Hills coach Afton Balderree said she got goosebumps when Anderson and Fielding won.
“They did really well,” Balderree said. “They started out strong, and then they flipped a switch and they took it home, so it was really good.”
Crimson Cliffs beat Desert Hills at Desert Hills in the final match of the regular season, so the Thunder was happy to turn the tables at the region tournament.
“I think we’ve definitely thought more about the talent that we have as a team,” Balderree said. “And they came out this weekend and took that talent and used it like they should have. So we’re peaking at the right time. It’s perfect.”
The state tournament will feature a new format that is going to build pressure right from the start.
“It’s a little bit different because we’re starting out straight at the quarterfinals,” Balderree said. “So we’re going to have a more tougher match in the first round. But we’re ready. These girls are ready. They’re going to take this high and ride it.”
Brown said that the defending 4A state champion Mustangs will have experience to rely on, and they’re looking forward to state.
“All of our kids play at a high level, they’re all USTA players,” Brown said. “So they can deal with the ups and downs. Pretty much every match has up and down periods, and you have to be confident that in that moment when you’re down that you can get right back up.”
To see the 4A seedings and brackets and to follow the state tournament, visit the UHSAA website.
Cedar City News reporter JEFF RICHARDS contributed to this article.
Updated Sept. 27, 12:45 p.m. to include names of top four finishers in each bracket.
Region 10 Tournament Results (top four in each bracket qualify for state)
- Kylie Kezos, Dixie.
- Malika Maxwell, Desert Hills.
- Averee Beck, Crimson Cliffs.
- Ava Blake, Pine View.
- Cami Stanger, Crimson Cliffs.
- Kasia Wittwer, Desert Hills.
- Isis Freiberg, Hurricane.
- Anna Steele, Snow Canyon.
- Brianna Hartman, Desert Hills.
- Mandy Beckstrand, Crimson Cliffs.
- McKenna Chandler, Snow Canyon.
- Meg Fraser, Dixie.
- Gabby Hafen and London Wunderli, Crimson Cliffs.
- Brooklyn Price and Megan Lewis. Desert Hills.
- Taya Torres and Josie Humes, Cedar.
- Camille Van Gills and Claire Renouf, Snow Canyon.
- Taylee Anderson and Tessa Fielding, Desert Hills.
- Whitney Matheson and Bailey Speakman, Crimson Cliffs.
- Katelyn Jennings and Izabella Fawson, Dixie.
- Grace Slater and Gracie Salley, Pine View.
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