When the high school tennis season began, Grantsville sophomores Madison Bolinder and Rylee Dalton had modest expectations, to say the least.
“This is Rylee’s first year ever playing, and my first year playing doubles,” Bolinder said.
They exceeded those expectations — and then some. On Saturday at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City, Bolinder and Dalton completed an impressive run through the second doubles bracket at the Class 3A state tournament, winning the state championship with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Manti’s Talia Cluff and Emma Christensen.
“I wasn’t even expecting to be on varsity, so I definitely wasn’t expecting this,” Dalton said.
The duo endured some ups and downs on the court throughout the season, Grantsville coach Stephen Thurgood said.
“They had some really bad games where they couldn’t do anything right, but (Saturday) was 180 degrees opposite,” he said. “They played good, they hit the ball where they needed to hit the ball — they didn’t hit the ball with power or anything flashy, but they hit the ball where it needed to go. That’s how you win.”
Bolinder and Dalton entered the tournament as the No. 3 seed from Region 13, meaning they had a tough path to even make it to Saturday’s semifinal round. They beat Maeser Prep’s Megan Grant and Clare Perkins 6-2, 6-2 in the first round, and followed that with a tough 6-3, 7-5 win over Region 12 champions Presley Chappell and Neleh Troseth of South Sevier.
That win put the Grantsville pair into the semifinals, where they took on Madeline Frazier and Kate Altman of Rowland Hall on Saturday morning. Frazier and Altman finished ahead of Bolinder and Dalton in the Region 13 tournament, but this time, the girls in red and black had the upper hand in a hard-fought match. After Bolinder and Dalton won the first set 6-3, Frazier and Altman stormed back for a 6-1 win to force a third set. However, Bolinder and Dalton dominated the rest of the way, winning the final set 6-0.
Bolinder said she and Dalton focused on forcing the other team to make mistakes — a strategy that paid off in the finals.
“Really, we were just trying to keep out of our own heads — make sure that we really support each other,” Dalton added.
Grantsville’s first doubles team of Hallie Johnson and Addie Butler also reached the finals, but lost to Morgan sophomores Lucy Tripp and Reagan Toone 6-3, 6-4. It was the third time the two teams had met this season, with Johnson and Butler winning the first two matches.
“It’s tough to beat somebody three times, and they were tough matches all three times,” Thurgood said. “The big one (Saturday) was when we were up 3-2 in the second set, and it went deuce-ad, deuce-ad at least 10 times before we lost it. At that point in time, you could feel everything turn.”
Johnson and Butler won their first two matches of the tournament without dropping a set, beating Grand’s Lillian Scott and Jenny Kopell 6-1, 6-1 in the first round and South Sevier’s Morgan Blackburn and Aubree Robinson 6-3, 6-0 in the second round. Johnson and Butler were pushed to their limit in the semifinals against Rowland Hall’s Madeline Keil and Alivia Boe, holding on for a 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 win.
Each of Grantsville’s three singles players won a match on Friday, helping the Cowboys finish in a tie for third place in the team standings. Sophie Crosby shut out South Sevier’s Janessa Gayler 6-0, 6-0 in the first singles bracket before losing to Manti’s Sadie Cox 6-1, 6-3 in the second round. Audrey Curtiss edged Grand’s Kyla Jackman 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 in her first match at second singles and was eliminated with a 6-1, 6-0 loss to Maeser Prep’s Kelsey Ortega. At third singles, Lacy Linares beat Union’s Eliza Beales 6-3, 6-2, and lost to Richfield’s Aubrei Jorgensen 6-1, 6-4.
Rowland Hall won the team title, with Waterford second and Grantsville and Morgan tied for third.