The Park City girls tennis team took home sixth place this past weekend at the 5A state tournament
Last season, the Park City girls tennis team was one victory away from winning a state championship. Had then-senior Livi Rockwood or then-junior Brooklyn Thompson pulled off victories in their respective state title matches, the Miners would’ve been dubbed UHSAA 4A state champions.
With the loss of Rockwood and her twin sister Gabby, a state title winner at No. 2 singles last season, Park City was expected to be in a rebuilding phase, but coach Heather Nicholas wasn’t buying it.
“You would think that this season would be about rebuilding since we are so young but that’s not the case with us,” Nicholas said. “Despite our youth, we are a very seasoned team with most of our girls playing in tournaments, whether locally or nationally, throughout the offseason. With that, hopefully our age won’t matter because they’re still experienced.”
This year, Miners proved her right, despite moving up to Class 5A following the UHSAA reclassification this past summer. Not only did Park City go undefeated in the regular season, the Miners were crowned Region 8 champions and finished sixth at the 5A state tournament this past weekend.
“For our first year moving up to 5A, I’m really pretty happy with our season went as a whole,” Nicholas said. “To have us win region and then place sixth in the state, particularly with our youth, it really was an overall success. We have nothing but good times ahead and I can’t wait for next year to roll around.”
With the jump to 5A, Nicholas was expecting the tougher competition, something she relished knowing how much better it would make the Miners. She just didn’t know how tough.
“Honesty I don’t know what to expect with the move to 5A but I’m happy that we had more challenging matches,” Nicholas said. “Last year our region matches weren’t always challenging so the biggest thing was playing a more competitive schedule that helped prepare us for the postseason and beyond.”
Freshman Olivia Tarmina, playing in the No. 2 singles slot, and Thompson, in the No. 3 singles slot, were the last Miners to finish their season, each bowing out in the semifinals of the state tournament.
“The girls had some really tough matches on day two but I felt like they both played really well in the end,” Nicholas said. “I would say Olivia wasn’t as strong as she’s been throughout the season but Brooklyn played well and fought hard. I feel like they were beaten and they didn’t lose it for themselves. … They played solid players and were outplayed which is a result we can live with.”
Freshman Elle Martin was Park City’s No. 1 singles player all year, finishing second at the region tournament before losing in the second round of the state tournament to senior Sicely Ferreira of Woods Cross, who won runner-up.
The sophomore duo of Daniela Santos and Lauren Allen ended their season in the first round of the No. 1 doubles portion of the state tournament.
More than anything, the Miners are using this season as a learning experience, but not in the expected way. While most teams, according to Nicholas, take the previous season’s tribulations and learn from them on the court, Park City will be having a different approach this offseason.
“We have all the skill needed to win at this level, that is not our problem,” Nicholas said. “We really need to get better between the ears and that will come with age, experience and maturity. It’s all about having that confidence in yourself to own the big points that change the outcomes of matches, which I think they’ll grow and learn from.”
Despite not finishing in the top-five of the state tournament, Nicholas can’t wait for the future and what it holds, acknowledging all of the experience her girls got this year as a reason why the Miners are a “force to be reckoned with” in the near future.
“I feel as if the girls learned a lot this season and got to see what sort of competition they know awaits them,” Nicholas said. “I felt like we were going in blind but now the bar has officially been set. Hopefully the girls spend the winter and summer prepping for next year because I fully expect us to be up there with the best in the state.”
With Thompson graduating and no expected seniors to be on the roster next season, the Miners are reloading. But they do have a few promising prospects entering the program who could be game-changers, according to Nicholas.
Ally Thompson, Brooklyn’s younger sister, and Audrey Lord are both tournament players who can expect to have the same success that Martin and Tarmina did this season as freshmen, if they put in the work.
“We not only have a lot of strength returning, we have a lot of strength coming in,” Nicholas said. “Region and state titles are still the goals for us, and I don’t expect that change at all. I feel as if there are a lot of girls who graduated from other programs so it’s up for anyone to take it all next year.”
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Dave Hanscom announced last month he was retiring as volunteer race director of the Wasatch Citizens Series after 30 years in the position.