Park City boys tennis beats Juan Diego with ease
March 31, 2018
Ask almost any Park City High School team which teams will be tough to beat and Juan Diego Catholic High School will come up. The boys tennis team was no different. Moving up to Class 4A this season put the Miners in the same class as Juan Diego for the first time in several years, and coming into Wednesday's home match, they were ready for a scrap.
"I remember freshmen year we played them and it was really, really close," said Spencer Kunkel, a PCHS senior. "We pulled it out 3-2, but ever since then I thought of it as a big team to beat."
But times have changed. The Soaring Eagle lost some influential players, including the Kempin brothers who earned multiple state championships, and the team was rebuilding, with football players stepping up to fill the ranks, whether they had experience or not. The Miners won every match.
"It's pretty interesting having to start over from scratch, but they are making some real progress," said Sam Nelson, the Soaring Eagle's first singles player, about the new recruits. "They are all at the same level, they are all trying to work their way up, so it's pretty competitive; they're trying to beat each other."
Nelson had a good against match Kunkel, losing 6-4, 6-3, and putting on a show as the two teams watched from the front of the bubble.
"He was a really consistent player, but when I started playing my tennis, the way I like to play it, it got better," Kunkel said. "My tennis is a little more aggressive. I like to hit a few groundstrokes, get up to the net, then finish on the net. But in that match, I mostly played a different strategy where I stood on the baseline and tried to make him make the mistake."
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With Nelson's consistency, that game plan didn't play out, and Kunkel won by switching back to his go-to style.
But further back in the bubble, the matches were less competitive. Both the two and three singles matches were over in 45 minutes — about half the length of an average tennis match — and finished 6-0, 6-0 apiece for the Miners.
Kunkel said the match answered an important question about PCHS's new region, but he was excited to play some larger, more challenging schools, like The Miners' opponents on Tuesday, when the team faced Lone Peak — a Class 6A school with a roster of Division 1-bound singles players.
"The match against them was pretty fun," said Charlie Lambert, the Miners' team captain. "We got there and the opponents outmatched us completely and the wind was just blowing really hard. It was a really good learning lesson for all the kids, just first of all, to learn to play in the wind, learn to not get angry with the wind because there's nothing you can do about it."
He said playing Lone Peak forced the Miners to rise to the occasion.
"I think it's been good for us, because a lot of the time in tennis, you play to your opponent's ability," Lambert said. "It's good to be able to play up and get that experience, because we had Battie (Bautista Mantoni), a freshmen, he was playing third singles against an amazing player — I don't think I've ever seen Battie play so well, he was out of control playing so well — he lost pretty handily but it was really cool to see him play to the best of his ability."
But in region, Lambert said he's not sure who that tough opponent will be.
"So far it's just been Ben Lomond and Juan Diego, and against Ben Lomond in the doubles match, my opponent team only scored three points in the entire match, and all three of them were double faults on our end," Lambert said. "Then in this match against Juan Diego, we actually had some pretty close games but it was still 6-0, 6-0. So so far, there hasn't been too much of a struggle … but you never know when a team is going to pop up and be good."
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