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Miners’ tennis team showed promise

Taking third in state doesn’t stand out in Miners’ tennis lore, but it’s a good start to a new chapter.

That was the apparent attitude as the Park City High School’s boys’ tennis team met on Wednesday night at Coach’s in the Racquet Club. The group celebrated a season in which one senior, two juniors, three sophomores and a freshman landed behind just Desert Hills and Juan Diego among 16 teams at Class 3A state finals in Provo.

"The kids just wanted it," said assistant coach Danny Woodard, who moved to Park City from California last June, "They put the effort in before the season started. They worked through practices and they came together and worked on all their skills during the season."

Sole senior Tyler Carpenter made a big jump from No. 1 doubles to No. 1 singles and never looked out of place in the top spot. Carpenter eventually lost in the state quarterfinals, but he was content with his standing among upper-echelon players.

"Playing doubles is completely different from singles," Carpenter said. "It was my goal just to get out of the first round, because I knew I was going to play someone really good. I accomplished my goal."

Carpenter will attend college at the University of Nebraska, where both of his parents are alumni. He said he will probably play intramural sports, but he’ll hang up the racket for a while.

"He’ll be missed," said junior Jackson Engen, citing the senior’s hard-working example. "He’s the team captain, the team leader, No. 1 on the team, and he’s a very nice guy."

Engen himself demonstrated a customary enthusiasm for the game on runs through tournaments in the regular season, divisionals and state at No. 3 singles.

"I just always want to win," Engen said. "I have a passion for that. This was my (best) chance to win it this year, because there’s a lot of good people at (No.) 2 or 1, so I just put my heart into it, basically."

Engen won the state semifinal 6-2, 6-2 in a match that was closer than it appeared and featured a handful of deuces. In the final, he learned the same lesson he consistently taught opponents throughout the season – no early lead is safe.

"I just know that tennis is a cruel sport or an awesome sport," said Engen, who lost two consecutive sets to Desert Hills player Joe Salemi after playing his best tennis to win the first set 6-3. "You can be up like 5-0 in the final set and still lose, or vice versa. It’s just by point. It’s never over until it’s over."

Sam McMahon, playing at No. 2 singles, made it to the quarterfinals as a junior – in fact, every Park City player made the quarterfinals – and he said he’s already amped for the 2011 season to begin.

"Next year, I’ll be a senior, so I’ll probably try to move up to No. 1 singles or play No. 1 doubles," McMahon said.

McMahon became a No. 2 player after junior John Packham left the team and sophomore Stefan Dancy came back down to the doubles ranks. Sophomore Caleb Wray was partnered with Dancy, and they immediately became a worthy contender at No. 1 doubles.

"Caleb’s got a big first serve and Stefan’s got great hands at the net," Woodard said. "That allows them to attack on their serve and really hold their serve well. Stefan’s probably got one of the best return games, if not just on the team, but in the state. He allows them to get breaks and gives them chances to win the matches."

Dancy said the look at doubles improved his play as an all-around player, and he’s aiming to help Park City compete for a team title next season.

"We’ve got a really young team," Dancy said. "Next year we can come back even stronger. Most of the other teams will lose big key players. We’re only losing one key person, and I think we can make up for him pretty well."

At No. 2 doubles, Kasra Motaghed and Matt Groy also made the Class 3A semifinals after the midseason switch-up. Montaghed had played with Wray, and found that Groy was a "smooth transition."

"They’re both pretty young," Woodard said. "Kas is just a sophomore and Matt’s just a freshman, but they stepped up big. They worked really hard on their communication, telling each other where they’re going to be and what to do, and it just made them a better team."

Jessica Watts, who played tennis at the University of Utah, replaced Scooter Mastain as head coach before the season and changed the atmosphere in Miners’ practices and contributed to the success at state, most PCHS players agreed.

"She definitely instilled a good work ethic in us," Carpenter said. "She expects a lot for us. She set tight goals for us, which is a good thing. Shoot for the stars and hopefully, you’ll end up somewhere good."


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