A Miners team for the ages
Outside of the sweltering heat, there was little build-up to the Park City boys winning the 3A State Tennis Championships on Saturday at Tonaquint Park in St. George.
That didn’t matter to the Miners, because there was plenty of celebration afterward.
In a recently unprecedented feat, the boys claimed their fourth straight state crown. They also won the individual state title at every position.
"I think that is one of the first times in Utah prep history," said Miners head coach Warren Pretorius about the individual sweep.
In the previous years, the No. 1 individual title was locked up by Wes Hancock of Pine View, who is playing for the University of Utah this year. With Hancock out of the way, the Miners claimed 30 out of 30 possible points in the state tournament. The closest team was Dixie, who finished with 16 points after meeting Park City in three of the five final match-ups. Park City was able to eliminate the other southern Utah powerhouse, Pine View, in the semifinals.
Leading the Miners were Park City’s standout senior class, Nick Perez, Nick VonDerAhe, Matt Kunkel and David Marsh, who captured their own piece of Utah high school sports history by each winning an individual title for the fourth time in four years.
"It’s even sweeter than all of the others, because it capped it off," Pretorius said. "It was the cherry on top for this awesome group of guys."
Perez, VonDerAhe and Kunkel all dominated the tournament, collectively losing a total of only 10 games in the entire tournament and winning in straight sets in the finals. Perez, at the No. 1 position, won in straight sets against Logan’s Nate Ballam 6-1, 6-3 in the finals. No. 2 VonDerAhe also won 6-1, 6-3 over Brandon Nelson of Logan and at the No. 3 slot, Kunkel won 6-0, 6-2 over Dixie’s Logan Bleazard.
"Kunkel was off the court in 30 minutes," Pretorius said incredulously.
Marsh also had a noteworthy tournament winning in the No. 1 doubles final after injuring his hip just two days earlier. In fact, Pretorius said that both doubles teams, Marsh and partner Taylor Smith, and the No. 2 duo of Hunter Nicholas and Tyson Smith, played some of the best tennis he’s seen from them all year.
"Both teams played their best tennis in the finals," Pretorius said. "It was unbelievable. It was their best matches of the year."
The teams also beat the heat, managing to last through the two long days of 100-plus temperatures with a mixture of water and shade, even after another team’s player left the tournament for the hospital with heat exhaustion.
"The guys knew it was a serious concern and a long day," Pretorius said. "They were ready to go."
In the last four years, the state-dominating Miners have a collective record of 70-1 competing against the top schools at every level, 1A through 5A. The only team that challenged them all year, Brighton, won last weekend’s 5A state title. Pretorius is always careful to focus on performance, not outcome with the team, but with that kind of momentum over four years, he had to admit that the state trophy was important.
"I think the guys and I would have been disappointed if we had somehow not won everything," Pretorius. "It was a nice way to end. It was the reward for being an incredible team for four years, not just a year."
With the three of the four seniors heading to Division I tennis programs in the fall, Pretorius is not sure how the Miners will stack up next year, but he’s positive they will be contenders. Nicholas, the Smith twins and Blake Barcus will headline the varsity lineup and Pretorius is hoping that other players will step up in the meantime.
"They’ve been around this group of seniors and have the championship mentality," Pretorius said.
But until then the Miners will spend the rest of the year reveling in their accomplishments and clearing space in the trophy case.
"We proved that we were one of the best teams in the state and arguably in Utah high school history," Pretorius said.
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