Park City girls tennis begins the 5A state tournament on Thursday at Liberty Park
When Park City girls tennis coach Heather Nicholas began the 2019 season, she was very adamant that, despite the Miners’ youth, this season would not be wasted as a “rebuilding one.”
Park City has one senior on the team, Brooklyn Thompson, playing in the No. 3 singles spot. Both the No. 1 and No. 2 singles players are freshmen in Elle Martin and Olivia Tarmina while the No. 1 doubles team is composed of sophomores Daniela Santos and Lauren Allen.
That group led Park City as it went undefeated in Region 8 play to win the championship. Martin, Tarmina and Thompson have all advanced to the Class 5A state tournament as singles players while Santos and Allen compete in doubles.
“I’m really happy with how the season went for us, especially with jumping up to 5A and not knowing what to expect, winning the region is pretty special,” Nicholas said. “But now it’s time for state and we are sending four of our five groupings, so that’s a good thing. Our girls are ready, so now it’s all about us going out there and seeing how it all falls into place.”
The tournament begins on Thursday at 9 a.m. at the Liberty Park Tennis Center in Salt Lake City. The semifinals will begin on Saturday at 9 a.m. at the same place, before crowning individual and team champions.
Martin will be competing for the first time since losing a nail-biter in the finals of the Region 8 championships on Saturday to Wasatch’s Alysha Damron, who delivered Martin her only two losses of the season. It was a highly competitive battle, but in the end Martin came up just short, suffering her second loss of the season to Damron, the only player she’s lost too.
“Elle did absolutely great and honestly I couldn’t be more proud of her because it was a highly competitive and controversial match,” Nicholas said. “It was a tough battle and a lot of things went against her, but she kept great composure and continued to fight and battle.” Although she came up just short, I think this actually sets her up for greatness later on in the future. … Maybe even as soon as the state tournament.”
Martin, who will be one of two freshmen competing in the No. 1 singles tournament, will square off with junior Anzley Stohle of Olympus. Stohle, who finished third in No. 1 singles at the Region 6 tournament, is 4-3 on the season.
Tarmina dominated the competition in the Region 8 tournament, staying undefeated on the season as she swept the competition at No. 2 singles, playing in a tough finals match in which she won 6-2, 6-4 over AnnaBeth Templeman of Springville to win her title.
“She was absolutely rock solid all the way through the tournament, much like she’s been throughout the whole season,” Nicholas said. “She’s been ‘steady eddy’ all season long and I don’t expect that to change despite her youth.”
Tarmina will open up the state tournament against Skyline senior Ava Henson (3-4), who finished fifth at No. 2 singles in the Region 6 tournament.
Thompson will enter the state tournament off of a loss much like Martin, coming up just short in the championship match of the No. 3 singles match at the Region 8 tournament. Thompson rolled through the first two rounds before losing to sophomore Katie Chambers of Provo.
“It was a tough final match for her and I feel bad,” Nicholas said. “She happened to get caught up playing against one of those types of players who kept popping the balls back over the net with no pace. Brooklyn hates that style of play and it was just tough luck for her.”
Santos and Allen could be considered lucky to even be in the state tournament, despite boasting a 6-1 record prior to entering the Region 8 tournament. After losing in the first round, Santos and Allen won out the rest of the way to finish in fourth place and earn the final Region 8 bid to the state tournament.
“They have a lot of potential and I could see them doing very well in the state tournament, especially because they’ve played the whole season as the favorite,” Nicholas said. If they can continue to play with whatever it is they found at the end of the region tournament, they should be just fine.”
Santos and Allen will take on another sophomore duo in Anika Boyden and Lucy Carlson of East, who finished the season 4-3 but are the top seed from the Region 6 No. 1 doubles tournament.
Although a state championship was a goal at the beginning of the season, Nicholas acknowledges that it will be very hard to do considering Park City will be without a No. 2 doubles team. The Miner’s No. 2 doubles squad finished in fifth at the Region 8 tournament, one spot out of the cutoff.
“Winning the state championship can definitely be done, but everything would have to align perfectly for that to happen,” Nicholas said. “Once I got the draws, I told the girls that the level of competition has been raised so now we have to do the same. … We are now just looking to win as many matches as possible and see where it all falls and we’ll live with the results.”
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Park City plays in the toughest region in 5A, and coach Purcell believes that mental toughness will help turn the season around.