Miners boys tennis will seek Class 4A championship as underdogs | ParkRecord.com

Miners boys tennis will seek Class 4A championship as underdogs

Park City High School senior Spencer Kunkel returns a volley during his number-one singles matchup against Juan Diego Catholic High School at the PC MARC Wednesday afternoon, March 28, 2018. (Tanzi Propst/Park Record)
Tanzi Propst/Park Record | The Park Record

The boys tennis Class 4A state tournament is rapidly approaching, and the Miners are once again looking for a title. The team took second in Region 11 behind Bonneville, going 5-1 in region over the regular season.

One difference in this year’s state tournament: The Miners will not be the favorites. That honor likely goes to Orem High School, which fills all but one of Region 9’s top-seeded positions, with the exception of second doubles. But according to head coach Hunter Nicholas, the team is not missing its leading position.

“In years past we’ve been the favorite going into state and that’s made it difficult maybe going in with some early-round expectations,” he said. “We haven’t been tough enough in those early rounds. I think (this season) we are competitive with any team, and not being the favorite is to our advantage.”

The Miners took second at the state championship in 2016, and third in 2017 when the team competed in Class 3A.

Nicholas said that, without a target on its back, the team can better focus on playing tennis.

“I think that’s a good mindset going into the tournament,” he said. “It’s almost better to be the underdog going in; all the pressure is on them.”

At an early-season tournament in St. George, the Miners finished second behind Salem Hills, which in turn was beaten by Orem during the regular season.

Nicholas is hoping his team has gained momentum since then and is peaking at the right time. Currently the Miners are strongest at first doubles where Region 11 No.1-ranked senior team captain Charlie Lambert and sophomore Quin Decesaris will start their tournament by facing Region 9’s fourth-seeded Jackson Last and Preston DuCrest of Hurricane.

The Miners are then strong throughout, with sophomore Alex Burkemper ranked second in Region 11’s second singles, freshman Bautista Mantoni ranked second in Region 11’s third singles, and the Miners’ second-doubles team – freshman Will Efrusy and junior Ethan Davis – also ranked second in Region 11.

Senior Spencer Kunkell, the Miners’ first singles player, is ranked fourth in the region, but Nicholas said that’s largely because he had an uncharacteristically rough Region 11 tournament – losing to Stansbury’s Erik Leary, who has taken the Region 11 first seed in the state tournament.

Kunkell will take on the Region 12 No.1-ranked Stefan Balian of Dixie in the first round, which Nicholas said will be a good match for the Park City senior.

“We’ve got to be ready to play our hardest and play with focus and with presence from the very beginning, because I think the seeds in a lot of ways don’t matter,” Nicholas said. “I think you can get caught up in the seeds, and at the end of the day it’s just a number next to a name.”

The tournament starts on Thursday, May 10, at the Liberty Park Tennis Courts in Salt Lake City, and finishes on Saturday, May 12. Players will assemble by 8:30 a.m., with games starting soon after.

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