Two of the hardest working tennis players in Region 9 squared off Thursday. Hurricane’s Shayden Hinton and Dixie’s Tevan Balian have been the anchors to their respective teams so far. Both have proven to be technically sound while being a tough out. In their region match, they set a quick pace with high-caliber ground strokes.
The Tigers’ southpaw jumped out to an early lead with three straight wins, but Balian demonstrated why he’s a legitimate candidate to finish atop region and state this season. The Flyers letterman overcame early struggles to secure the next 12 games en route to his 6-3, 6-0 victory at Green Valley.
“I feel strong about my game all around. … It’s developing nicely,” said Balian, who improved to 10-1 overall.
Balian’s ability to hit strong forehands deep towards the baseline clearly had an impact on the aggressive Hinton, which often took away his ability to attack the net. The Flyers junior — who won the state title in No. 2 singles a season ago — looked as sharp as ever in the second set.
He immediately started things off by breaking serve. From there, he limited the Tiger to just two points over the next two games and quickly took a 3-0 lead in the second.
Make no mistake, Hinton’s play was solid, but Balian’s playing at an entirely different level right now, which is why he is yet to be beaten in region at this point.
In the later games of the second, Balian kept the point of attack going with deep forehands and moving the Tiger from baseline to baseline. Hinton’s great footwork did allow him to get into position to make a play on most shots, yet unforced errors proved too costly in the end as Balian rolled through the set to secure the match victory.
Despite the strong showing, Balian’s game wasn’t all roses, either, as he struggled with faults.
The junior said he’s fine-tuning his serve after going through the same issues in his last match against Desert Hills.
“I may shorten my toss on serve a bit to adjust to the wind because in my match against Christian Davis (earlier this week), my serve and return was (a) problem due to the constantly changing wind patterns,” Balian said.
For Hurricane, Thursday was indeed a tough outing as Dixie won four out of the five matches.
The usually consistent Karter Beardal couldn’t seem to find a rhythm in No. 2 singles after falling to Micah Alba 6-0, 6-0. The veteran is still transitioning from doubles to singles play this spring and will hope to get back on track in the Tigers’ remaining region matches.
“I feel like I’m tweaking on my serve a little bit,” Beardal said. “To achieve (victories), I’ll need to stay focused, hit my strokes, be consistent, and just play to the best of my abilities with everything I have learned thus far.”
Alba has a big serve with heavy topspin groundstrokes. The Dixie coaching staff wanted to see more consistency from the underclassman this season, and he feels like he’s delivering on that note.
“I did work very hard on my consistency over the summer, and feel like I overcame that obstacle quite a while ago,” Alba said. “I would say my style of play is loose and intense. My strengths are serving and being very consistent from the baseline.”
The Tigers did pickup a win in No. 3 singles after Zac Pickering downed Nick Livingston, 7-6 (1), 6-2.
Dixie swept both doubles matches: Zach Staheli and Avery Cope outlasted Ben Perkins and Lincoln Last, 6-3, 6-1. Likewise for Mason Aldred and Garrison Ganowsky who defeated Gray Robicheaux and Jared Edwards 6-2, 6-2.
Dixie coach Eric Christensen said he’s confident within their lineup, adding the only question mark they seem to have right now is in No. 3 singles where injuries have played a role throughout the year.
Alba shares the same sentiment.
“The team is doing very well, so I’m feeling pretty confident in our team this year. Even though we lost are third singles player Luke Heaton, I still think we can do very well (in our final matches).”
DIXIE 6, CANYON VIEW 0: Six different Flyers scored and Tristan Cowles presided over a shutout against the Falcons on Thursday.
Mitch Wilkinson, Javier Leguizamon, Alex Green, Konner Aitken, Johnny Acosta and McClane Keenan scored for Dixie, which improved to 8-2 in region play.
PINE VIEW 10, HURRICANE 3: Keltee Shelley’s three-run home run in the top of the sixth inning padded what was a 4-1 lead, and put the game out of the Tigers’ reach.
The Panthers (5-3 Region 9, 15-3 overall) notched 10 hits in the contest. Kirsten Anderson was the winning pitcher.
PINE VIEW 19, HURRICANE 14 (from Wednesday): The Panthers and Tigers put on an offensive showcase at Hurricane with 21 and 16 hits, respectively.
Pine View (2-6, 6-9) gave up 14 runs in the first five innings and trailed by six heading into the sixth when they exploded at the plate. The Panthers scored 11 runs in the inning and squeezed past their region rivals to snap a five-game losing streak.