Home court treated the top Region 9 schools kindly in the first two rounds of the 3A state tournament on Friday, with multiple players from Dixie, Snow Canyon, and Desert Hills winner two matches apiece to advance to today’s semifinals.
With nine points, Desert Hills is in a tie for first place with Juan Diego. Snow Canyon is in third with seven points and Dixie is tied for fourth with six.
Dixie junior Tevan Balian picked up where he left off after taking the top spot in No. 1 singles at the Region 9 championships, dropping Morgan High School’s Tanner Castro 6-0, 6-0 in the first round.
“My first match was kind of a warm up,” said Balian, “He was a good player, but the rallies weren’t very consistent, so I didn’t get my ground strokes as warmed up as I thought I would.”
Struggling to find his rhythm, Balian vacillated early against Wasatch senior Scotty Niederhauser before finishing strong to win 6-4, 6-0. The turning point coming after a close call in the first set.
“I think after the call, I got in his head,” said Balian, “After that he sort of tanked and gave up some free games.”
Balian will face fellow top seed, junior Nick Chingas of Spanish Fork, in the semifinals.
The third seed in No. 1 singles, Desert Hills junior Clay Hardy upset his first round opponent, second seed Payson sophomore Adam Pullan 6-4, 6-3. Though the seeding shows Hardy, who picked up the championship last year in No. 2 doubles, as the underdog, Desert Hills Coach Dow Christenson wouldn’t call it an upset.
“That’s the way it goes when you seed among several regions,” he said, “but it’s not that simple. So, if you get a favorable draw, which I think we did, and get through the first round, then you have a shot.”
Hardy went on to defeat Park City’s underdog, fourth seed Matt Groy 6-2, 7-5. He will face Juan Diego junior Brendan Kempin in the semifinals. Kempin, the reigning state champion, only lost one game en route to the semifinals and remains the favorite this year. Hardy said he plans on using his experience in the first two rounds to try to unseat Kempin.
“I was at the net for 90 percent of my games today,” said Hardy, “Kempin’s going to be huge, but if I can attack at the net, I may be able to get a few in on him.”
Desert Hills also has potential for success in doubles, with their No. 1 and No. 2 teams favored to take the title. No. 1 team members and 2012 state champions Mason Ford and Christian Davis haven’t lost a match as a partnership in 3A, and are heavily favored to march through their bracket.
Preston Parmenter teamed up with Hardy for the No. 2 doubles crown last year. He is joined by fellow junior Ryan McGinnis in this year’s bid to defend Desert Hills’ command of the doubles game.
Ford and Davis beat Ryan Lynch and Taylor Clark of Morgan High 6-2, 6-0 and Juan Diego’s Ryan Lowe and Rex Alley 6-2, 6-0. They will face Dixie seniors Zach Staheli and Avery Cope today in a Region 9 semifinal showdown.
In No. 2 singles, Dixie sophomore Micah Alba had to put together a dramatic four-game comeback to win the second set of his second round pairing against Wasatch senior Kaden Neuberger. He will meet Park City sophomore Rawson Simmons in the semifinals.
Desert Hills junior Micha Gaelwiler followed in Hardy’s footsteps, beating a 1st and 2nd seed en route to a semifinals berth against Juan Diego freshman phenom Ryan Kempin.
Snow Canyon junior Logan Wrigley is the only remaining Region 9 player in third singles. He will meet North Sanpete’s Justin Ericksen in the semifinals.