Titans face top competition, place seventh in 5A state boys tennis tournament
Jun 15, 2018 10:51AM
● By Josh McFadden
By Josh McFadden | [email protected]
Heading into the Class 5A state boys tennis tournament May 16, 18 at Liberty Park, Olympus head coach Mike Epperson heaped admiration on the quality of talent among the teams and players his athletes would face.
“(Class) 5A tennis this year was the best group of high schools I’ve seen perform at state in all the years I have been coaching,” he said.
Consequently, Epperson knew his Region 6 champs would face plenty of tests at state. In the end, the Titans came in seventh at the tournament, though just five points separated third through eighth place. Brighton captured the state title despite having only one player win an individual championship.
“That tells you how competitive 5A was over the course of the season,” Epperson said. “We knew we had our hands full going into the tournament, but the bright spot that came out of the tournament was that our second doubles team of Ethan Stanger and Sawyer Peterson made it to the finals.”
Stanger and Peterson eventually fell to a duo from Woods Cross, but the duo had already won a grueling two-and-a-half-hour match in the semifinals the same day. Epperson said the pair may have run out of gas late in the final match.
The second doubles team had the best performance at state. The rest of the competitors lost close matches, with many going to a three-set tie-breaker. Epperson believes his players would have won most of those matches during the regular season, but the competition was much fiercer at state.
Second singles player Parker Warner won his match in the first round in a rout but then pulled a muscle in his back that hindered his play in a three-set tie-breaker loss in the quarterfinals. Also in the quarterfinals, first doubles players Ellis Ivory and Robbie Ballam lost a three-set tie-breaker. Epperson expected that pair to advance to the final round.
“I have high expectations for my players, so we didn’t reach our goals at state,” he said. “But as I look back on our season, winning the region title, St. George tournament and other tournaments we took first in during the regular season, I really can’t be prouder of this team. This team worked harder on the courts than any other team I have coached. That’s what brings me the most satisfaction with these boys, as they all fulfilled their goals up to not being able to take state. They gave me their all on the court in practice and in matches. They were determined to be region champs and qualify as the top seeds in state.”
Epperson has some big shoes to replace next season. Five of Olympus’ seven varsity players graduated. Only second doubles players Stanger and Peterson will be back in 2019. “You could say next year will be a rebuilding year for this program,” he said.
Still, Epperson is optimistic. He’s excited about some incoming freshmen and some talented players who excelled on the JV squad this past season.
“I have two great top JV players that will be sophomores in Matt Holmes and Oscar Smith. As ninth-graders in our program this year, they would have played varsity on most other high school teams, so I have high hopes for those guys. We are also receiving a ninth-grader next year named Stewart Goodson who’s a top intermountain player in the 14-year-old age group. I’m expecting (Goodson) to compete for the top spot on our team as a ninth-grader. So, I currently feel like we have five very solid varsity players in place going in to the 2019 season with other current great JV players that will be fighting for those last varsity spots next spring.”
Epperson will push his players to take private lessons and play three times a week with other players in the offseason. With hard work, he believes lofty goals are still within reach.
“Our goal is to always win a region title, but Skyline has reloaded their team and will be our biggest competition going into next season again, as they always are,” he said.