The depth of the Grantsville boys tennis team may not quite be what it used to be.
That isn’t keeping the Cowboys from setting their sights on yet another Region 11 title and their traditional spot among the elite teams in Class 3A.
Led by senior Braden Sandberg, who is going into his fourth year as Grantsville’s No. 1 singles player, the Cowboys figure to be right in the mix again in 2015.
“I think for me personally and for us as a team, we definitely expect to take region,” Sandberg said. “We definitely have the talent to.”
Sandberg and junior Tytan Thurgood have been battling for the No. 1 singles spot early on in the season, though it appears that Sandberg has gained the upper hand in that battle, according to coach Stephen Thurgood. Matt Waldron is the No. 3 singles player, while Isaac Hamm and Nate Beckett are the top doubles team and freshmen Peter Kurtz and Andrew Dalton have seen time at No. 2 doubles.
“I’m optimistic,” Stephen Thurgood said. “We don’t have the depth we used to have, and that’s a little concerning, but I’m still happy with what we’ve got. We’ve got some kids who want to play and I think that it will work.”
Sandberg said the Cowboys’ success will come as a result of hard work and continuing to challenge each other in practice, as well as playing with confidence and being mentally prepared for each match.
“Coming to practice every day and competing with Tytan and the other guys — I think it makes us all better,” Sandberg said. “That’s where it starts, is in practice. If you don’t practice well, it shows up in the matches.”
Beckett and Hamm previously were doubles partners at the junior varsity level, and will be playing a full varsity season together for the first time this year.
The step up in competition may be intimidating for some, but not for Beckett and Hamm, who are looking forward to the opportunity.
“I think it’s a bunch more fun playing [against] somebody who challenges you every time,” Hamm said.
Beckett echoed Hamm’s sentiments, though he noted that their matches take on some additional importance now that they are playing varsity tennis.
“Now you know your matches count more,” Beckett said. “It’s a little scarier but I think we’ve improved enough that we kind of go with the competition. It’s not a big jump in skill level.”
Grantsville’s weakness may be its inexperience, with only three returning varsity players from a year ago. That means that the Cowboys will need some freshmen to make contributions in order for them to maintain their grip on the top spot in Region 11 and to make an impression at the state tournament.
“All in all, I think we’ve got enough to take region again,” Stephen Thurgood said. “If you get some good draws and have some good days, a lot can happen at state.”
The Cowboys will get a significant test March 27-28 at the St. George Invitational. The field includes a pair of tough Class 3A teams in Dixie and Desert Hills, as well as Spanish Fork, Maple Mountain and Waterford, among others.
“St. George will be a really good experience for them,” Stephen Thurgood said. “It’s good competition down there, and I like it because Dixie and Desert Hills will be there. We’ll see them at state, so we’ll be able to see what they look like.”
The Cowboys will open their Region 11 schedule with a home match next Tuesday against Bear River. Grantsville will play host to the region tournament April 30 and May 1, with the state tournament taking place May 8-9 at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City.
“I think the kids are going to have fun and they’re going to have an enjoyable year,” Stephen Thurgood said. “Hopefully, everything will come together.”