As the Park City High School girls' tennis team took the court against Wasatch at the PC MARC on Tuesday afternoon, it looked a lot different than it did last year when it ended the season with a 3A state championship.
Gone are No. 1 and No. 2 singles players Solveig Karlsen and Danielle Lecher, as was doubles player McKenna Tychsen, but in their places are several up-and-coming young players, eager to prove their worth at the varsity level.
Against the Wasps, new No. 1 singles player Taylor Matz, a freshman, easily took care of her opponent in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2. New No. 2 doubles duo Sierra Wakefield and Marina Mayo also won in two sets, 6-3, 6-1.
The Miners were able to net a match victory thanks to the efforts of No. 3 singles player Jessica Santos, who is back on the team after winning the No. 3 singles state title last season. Santos won her match 6-1, 7-5.
Wasatch players picked up a couple wins, defeating No. 2 singles player Kylie Schwalbe, a sophomore, 6-3, 7-5. Park City's No. 1 doubles team, made up of senior Natalie Beal and freshman Juliana Signor, fell in three sets, 7-5, 2-6, 6-2.
After starting the season against bigger schools in Bonneville, Skyline, Davis and Wasatch, the Miners have been challenged repeatedly. First-year head coach Tamarin Espinoza said that's what she wanted to see to keep the Miners on their toes coming off a 3A state title last season.
"In 3A, I think we stand to do pretty well," she said.
That paid dividends on Monday at Davis. Playing against the defending 5A state champs, the Miners lost big, but learned a lot about themselves in the process.
"At Davis, there were a lot of tough losses, but they were good matches," Espinoza said. "A lot of the girls came off the court saying, 'Wow, that was a lot of fun.
As far as 3A goes, Espinoza doesn't know much about the girls' opponents. But she already has one team on her list of teams to beat.
"Juan Diego is a team I really, really want to beat," she laughed. "But I don't know what they'll be like this year. For all I know, it could be a completely different team we need to beat to win the region."
With two freshmen in the starting lineup, Espinoza said it will be crucial for the girls to improve quickly over the course of the season. But, she added, Matz and Signor are talented enough to get the job done.
"They're looking pretty good," she said. "Taylor is a good player. She came in and won the No. 1 spot pretty outrightly. It's just going to take her being out there more. Every match, she looks better and better. She's getting more confident, like she feels she belongs out there."
Mix in some veteran leadership with the youth influx and Espinoza thinks this team will be just fine in Region 10 play.
"I waited a couple weeks to let the team settle in before we voted for captains," she said. "Jessica, Natalie and Mayo were voted captains. They're leading by example, which is what I like. They're going out there and working hard, not just in matches, but in practices, too. They're making sure everyone is doing things together on and off the court."
Add it all up, and Espinoza believes the Miners should be considered among the favorites to win this year's 3A title.
"We need to keep our heads on straight and keep working hard," she said. "But they're doing really well so far."
Park City will return to the courts on Sept. 4 at the St. George Invitational. The Miners will play again at the PC MARC on Thursday, Sept. 11, when they host Region 10 foe Juan Diego.
PCHS Girls' Tennis Remaining Schedule
Sept. 4-6 at St. George Invitational
Sept. 11 vs. Juan Diego 3:30 p.m.
Sept. 15 at Rowland Hall 4 p.m.
Sept. 18 at Union 3:30 p.m.
Sept. 23 at Woods Cross 3:30 p.m.
Sept. 25 vs. Uintah 3:30 p.m.
Sept. 29 vs. Highland 3:30 p.m.
Sept. 30 vs. Grantsville 3:30 p.m.
Oct. 3-4 Region Tournament at Union/Uintah
Oct. 10-11 State Tournament at Liberty Park (SLC)