The high school girls tennis season is somewhat of a whirlwind, with the state tournament scheduled for the end of September and the Region 11 season already in full swing.
That doesn’t provide much time for the players to work their way into top form before the region tournament rolls around, but if recent results are any indication, the girls from Tooele and Stansbury will be ready to help their teams compete for top finishes and spots in the state tournament.
“I think we’re going to be somewhere in that middle range,” Tooele coach Pat Ciervo said, noting that Park City is a huge favorite to win the region title.
Ciervo’s team lost 4-2 to Ogden on Tuesday, but showed the cohesion necessary to make some noise as the season goes along. The Buffaloes’ two victories came at second doubles
(Angela Shaw and Camilla Pankratz) and third doubles (Tess Flake and Reagan Harvey). The first doubles team of Kammy Hamilton and Grace Bell lost a hard-fought, 7-6 (5), 7-5 decision, while singles players Taya Unruh, Rylee Nielson and Olivia Small all lost in straight sets.
Ciervo has been encouraged by the competition at the top of his lineup, and sees a lot of promise as the team continues to develop. Last week at a tournament in Cache County, the Buffs tied Mountain Crest and lost 4-2 to Lehi and Sky View, showing they can compete with some of the best teams Class 4A has to offer. The best part for Tooele is that the Buffs have only have one senior graduating after this season.
“We’ve been gradually building all year,” he said. “Leading into the core of the region (season), we’ve just built. The teams we’re supposed to beat, we’ve beaten, but now we need to step it up a little bit. We’ve definitely improved over last year, and our record reflects that, but now it’s a matter of seeing what we can do against a better team.”
“This team has really come together as a team,” he added. “They’re friends, they all work together and everybody is accountable to be here. I pretty much know that every practice, I’m going to have 25 players. We’re a family this year.”
Just up the road in Stansbury Park, Stansbury coach Jacob Jones is also optimistic about his team’s chances. The Stallions have four state qualifiers back from last year’s team, including the doubles team of seniors Mia Thurber and Kenzi Knudsen. Maddie Johansen and Hannah Anderson, who played first doubles last year, have been split up and are now playing first and second singles for the Stallions.
“They’re good girls,” Jones said. “They’re learning and progressing, and that’s all we can ask for.”
Jones admitted it wasn’t an easy decision to break up Johansen and Anderson, though it was made to spread Stansbury’s talent more evenly through its lineup.
“Super hard — super hard,” Jones said. “We wanted to keep them at doubles because they had done so well — they had taken second behind Park City, so we wanted to keep them together, but we just needed more depth. Our singles (players) are young and don’t have a lot of varsity experience, but points matter (in region) so we ended up splitting them up.”
Jones said there are some promising sophomores and juniors in the program who are continuing to improve and could eventually push for spots in the varsity lineup.
Jones agreed with Ciervo that the race in the middle of the region should be competitive.
“We got lucky taking second (in region) last year,” he said. “It’s close. Everybody’s battling, everybody’s trying, they’re all learning and it’s fun. Hopefully, one of these times, one of us can get past Park City and start realizing that they’re beatable.”
While Stansbury is certainly capable of competing in Region 11, one of the Stallions’ trademarks is how much they enjoy their time on the court — which could pay off as the matches get tougher.
“They’re an amazing group of young ladies,” Stansbury assistant coach Bob Haines said. “They compete hard, they work hard in practice and they laugh a lot. They’re a family — they really are. They support each other, they kid each other … they’ve got great senses of humor but they compete hard.”