Miners girls tennis takes second in state finals
It almost came together for the Miners. In fact, it came down to a single set.
Another few games and the Park City girls tennis team would have shored up its fourth consecutive state championship. Instead, the team finished second behind Ridgeline by a single point, tying with Desert Hills for second place.
Coach Heather Nicholas said that, considering the team’s position after the first day of the tournament, a second-place finish was outstanding.
“The fact that we got the opportunity to play for first was somewhat unexpected,” she said.
Only the Miners’ singles players had made it through the first round of play on Thursday, leaving a narrow window for Park City to claim another championship.
Park City’s first doubles team, composed of senior Emme Phillips and junior Mia Rapella, had lost in the second round 6-3, 6-4, to Ridgeline seniors Ali Wolford and London Crandall. The Miners’ doubles team, freshmen Lauren Allen and Daniela Santos, lost 6-4, 6-2, to junior Meg Week and freshman Leah DeHart of Salem Hills. As a result, the Miners had the fewest competitors out of the three likely champions, including Desert Hills and Ridgeline, going into the semifinals. Desert Hills still had competitors in all five categories, while Ridgeline had competitors in all but second doubles.
An unlikely series of outcomes kept the Miners in contention.
“On Friday, (athletic director Jamie Sheetz) and I went through and figured out exactly what would have to happen for us to still come out on top,” Nicholas said. “And, crazy enough, everything that needed to happen for us to (be in a position to) win, happened. That includes some teams losing.”
Both Ridgeline and Desert Hills lost at first doubles in the semifinals round. Notably, Uintah’s senior siblings, Kaitlyn and Kassidy Callahan, battled through a match against Ridgeline’s Wolford and Crandall to win 7-6, 7-4, 7-5.
Park City’s junior third singles player Brooklyn Thompson gave the tournament another twist when she defeated her Desert Hills opponent, sophomore Tia Turley, in the semifinals 6-1, 4-6, 6-2, who she had lost to in a tournament in St. George a few weeks ago.
The three contenders then knocked each other out in a way that separated them all by two points.
At first singles, Ridgeline junior Naya Tillitt beat Park City senior Livi Rockwood 6-1, 6-1.
At second singles, Park City senior Gabby Rockwood beat Desert Hills sophomore Mackenzie Telford 6-2, 6-1.
At second doubles, Desert Hills senior Lyndsi Graf and freshman Averee Beck beat Salem Hills junior Meg Weeks and freshman Leah DeHart 3-6, 6-4, 6-3. First doubles went to senior Heather Roskelley and junior Annie Spach of Logan.
So it all came down to the third doubles match, which pit Thompson against Madi Benchley of Ridgeline, with Park City trailing Ridgeline by one point, and Desert Hills one point behind Park City.
Because the match had started while the other singles competitions were still ongoing, the competitors didn’t know they were playing for the state title, though growing crowds around the court hinted at the match’s weight.
By 2 p.m. Thompson and Benchley were tied with one 6-2 set apiece, but as the third set started, Thompson started to fade.
“When I was coaching her in that third set, she was exhausted,” Nicholas said.
The three-set match against Turley that kept the Miners in contention had taken its toll on Thompson.
“She was the last one off by quite a while,” Nicholas said of the semi-finals match. “She was probably out on the court an extra hour than (the team’s other singles competitors).”
Thompson went down three games in the third set, then started to find her footing before losing 6-3.
“It was really hard,” Thompson said. “The other girl was really consistent and it was really hot.”
The loss meant the Miners tied for second with Desert Hills at 16 points each, while Ridgeline pulled ahead with 17.
“It was all right there,” Nicholas said. “And it was cool to actually get back in the mix and have the opportunity to come out first. I was pretty pleased we still managed to eke out second.”
Reflecting on the season, Nicholas said it was hard to believe her seniors were leaving, including Phillips and the Rockwoods, who she had worked with even before they joined the Miners.
“It’s been an amazing overall season,” she said.
Of course, Thompson will have the opportunity to play next year.
Tired and laconic after her loss, Thompson offered few words on her thoughts on this one.
“It was fun,” she said.