Swinging into second place at State
Sometimes second place feels like the ultimate victory. Or so was the case for the Park City High School girls tennis team at the Utah High School 3A Tennis State Championships at Brigham Young University last weekend.
"I’m really happy for my team," said Park City No. 1 player Ali McMahon. "We were all with each other. I love my teammates."
The girls set a number of records en route to their two-way tie with 14 points for second place with Juan Diego High School. For the first time ever, Miners at every position made it into the semifinal round on Saturday and put Park City in first place after the opening day of competition.
"Last year, not everybody won and this year, everyone did well and that was better," said No. 1 doubles player Hilary Packham.
It was also the first time the Miners finished second in the state
"That’s the best we’ve done in the eight years I’ve been here," Park City head coach Lori McMahon said.
It was a dead heat between five schools for the title, which went to Pine View. Park City, Pine View, Juan Diego, Dixie and Judge all had a legitimate shot, which was proven when no team dominated. Park City didn’t claim an individual title, but the strength of their team play throughout the entire tournament kept them in the hunt for the 3A state crown.
Coach McMahon noted that some players on her team have limited or no individual tournament experience, so second place is a cause for celebration.
"To come this far and to play this well is a big thing," McMahon said.
On the second day, Ali McMahon and No. 3 player Annika Karlsen advanced to the championship round, keeping the Miners’ title hopes alive.
Ali McMahon eventually fell to Juan Diego’s Romina Nedakovic, a tough minded tournament-level player who has won the No.1 position individual title for the last three years and has not lost a match in prep competition. Ali McMahon challenged Nedakovic by getting her out of her power game and forcing off-balance and short game shots, but ultimately could not match the strength of the junior player,6-3,6-3.
" I thought I played really well, but I could have played more consistently," Ali McMahon said. "She’s a good player, but I’ll take it next year."
McMahon says that after meeting Nedakovic in the final round this year, she is determined to return.
"She’s a good player. She’s so strong and she really came on strong this year, said Coach McMahon. "She wants it a lot."
As a mother-daughter duo, Ali McMahon plans to work hard in the off-season with her mother to prepare.
Karlsen, a freshman, made her prep championship debut by playing all the way to the final round, after beating Juan Diego’s Masha Chadovich in a hard-fought, three-hour match.
In the finals, Karlsen found her nemesis, Mikelle Mancini, another freshman from Judge Memorial. Karlsen had struggled against Mancini all year and lost at the state finals, falling 6-0, 6-0.
"She played well this time and I wanted her, but I couldn’t find a way to beat her," Karlsen said.
According to Park City assistant coach Tim Donnelly, Mancini played the best tennis she had played all year, making her nearly impossible to beat.
"She [Mancini] played out of her head and Annika played out of her mind. Annika will come back," Donnelly said.
Karlsen said the loss is motivating her for next year.
"She’s better right now. Next year in high school tennis, I’ll see her again. If I train all year, I’ll have a better shot at beating her," Karlsen said.
At the No. 2 position, Tessa Wray met Juan Diego’s Paige Miles in the semifinal round. According to both McMahon and Donnelly, Miles would be a No. 1 player, making her a difficult player to overcome.
The doubles teams of Tori Sowul and Hilary Packham at the No. 1 spot and Kirsten Hardman and Lindsay Price at No.2, had to settle with semifinals losses, both failing to match the aggressiveness of Pine View.
"They had a great tournament to get as far as they did," Coach McMahon said. "In the semifinal, they learned a lot of what it will take to win. You’ve got to be aggressive at the net."
Sowul, a senior, said both doubles team learned about how to approach their game.
"We learned to fight and not give up," Sowul said. "It was more important to play our best game, not just score more."
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