Tennis team takes talent on the road
Up until now, this season has felt a lot like last season for Park City tennis coach Warren Pretorius.
His varsity squad started the season easily knocking off top-rated teams, including a straight set sweep of Bountiful on Tuesday afternoon. This weekend they are competing in St. George at a two-day tournament that determines the state’s powerhouses for the year.
"It gives us a good idea of how the season will go," Pretorius said.
Make no mistake, Park City was, has been and is one of the state’s strongest squads, but this year Pretorius decided to mix things up and add little challenge to the weekend. Besides his seven starters, he has entered his junior varsity team into competition as a separate team to compete against other schools’ varsity players.
"That will give us a really good look at how deep we are," Pretorius said. "It will be interesting to see how they match up."
Pretorius tried this idea few years ago, but only five junior varsity athletes were able to make the trip, so this year will be the first time the Miners second-teamers will compete at full-tilt.
"I think they’ll surprise a few teams," Pretorius said.
Entering a junior varsity team into varsity competition isn’t unheard of in high school sports. The Wasatch High School wrestling team routinely has their junior varsity team taking on varsity competitors in the regular season to free up their nationally ranked varsity wrestlers for national competitions.
Part of the decision to enter both teams came from the addition of assistant coach Tim Donnelly. With an extra coach, both teams can be effectively guided with a coach on the court at all times.
If both teams fare well, then Pretorius will have a very accurate measure of the dominance of his team in the state. Last year, the boys had Pine View’s Wes Hancock in their way as the state’s best player, but this year the Miners should be the unquestionable team to beat. According to Pretorius his top three singles players Nick Perez, Nick Vonderahe and Matt Kunkel could all play at the No. 1 position.
"They are playing at a whole different level from a year ago," Pretorius said.
Pretorius is also hoping for the return of last year’s No. 1 singles player Fletcher Keyes, who is still debating his return to the Miners. The decision is multi-faceted for Keyes. He is coming off a wrist injury. He is also an excellent player. So good, in fact, that he transferred to the Winter School to free himself up for more travel and national tournaments throughout the year. He is still in the Park City School District so he is allowed to compete for the Miners, but is unsure whether or not he would rather continue his competition on the national circuit.
Pretorius hopes he stays with the Miners and his motives are not purely selfish. Sure the addition of Keyes would make the Miners literally unstoppable, but Pretorius thinks another high school season would only help Keyes’ tennis resume. Keyes played second fiddle to Hancock the last two years, and is one of the few Park City starters without "state champion" tied to his name. Such a distinction would round out an application to some of the top Division I tennis schools in the country. Pretorius also thinks the challenge, practice and camaraderie of the high school team would only help Keyes in his development.
"With him, it would be a whole different level," Pretorius said. "Playing high school doesn’t hurt him. We’re talking six weeks."
Hancock was able to parlay his prep and national circuit play into a University of Utah tennis scholarship and Pretorius hopes Keyes will follow his lead.
Until Keyes decides, though, Pretorius isn’t too worried. Including No. 1 doubles player David Marsh, Perez, Vonderahe and Kunkel are all defending three-time state champions and should have no problem taking on other state title contenders Ogden, Pine View and Dixie this weekend.
The Miners, who left early Friday morning, will be in competition all day Saturday in St.George.
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