The courts were littered Saturday afternoon with Southern Utah tennis players balling for a shot at a state title.
Each of the five championship matches of the 3A state finals at the Green Valley Resort featured a single or pair from Region 9.
But the Juan Diego Soaring Eagle proved that singles was a northerner’s game.
Snow Canyon’s Logan Wrigley fell (6-4, 6-0) to Juan Diego’s Brenton Reyner in No. 3 singles. Micah Alba from Dixie met a similar fate in No. 2 singles, blanked (6-0, 6-0) by Juan Diego freshman Ryan Kempin. In No. 1 singles, Dixie’s Tevan Balian was knocked off (6-2, 6-2) by Ryan’s older brother, junior Brendan Kempin, of course, also from Juan Diego.
“I did a lot better than I thought I would against him. I didn’t assume that I would just get bageled zero-zero, but he is a lot more experienced than I am as a player,” said Balian. “I still think I played well, and I’m happy with the games I got off of him.”
Balian had not lost a single set this season prior to facing the elder Kempin.
Kempin teemed with confidence as he got off to an early lead in the opening set. But, midway through the match, Balian found ways to challenge.
“I’m a very unconventional player at times. I can hit some shots from any point on the court that most players would just assume are going to be winners. I take pride in that as a player,” said Balian.
While both the Kempin brothers and Reyner swept singles, Desert Hills brought home the hardware in both No. 1 and No. 2 doubles.
First-seeded Desert Hills’ Preston Parmenter and Ryan McGinnis square-danced with the second-seed Snow Canyon’s Nate Utley and Hunter McArthur, beating them in straight sets 6-4, 6-1 in the No. 2 doubles championship.
Right next door, the No. 1 doubles comprised of Thunder’s Mason Ford and Christian Davis defeated the Judge Memorial tandem of Brandon Reemsnyder and Luke Ropner (6-2, 6-2).
Ford, the senior, was perhaps the more charismatic of the duo, slamming down shots and fist-pumping with each positive play.
“It just kind of keeps me going, keeps Christian going,” said Ford of his celebratory five-knuckle shake. “If we make a mistake or something we tend to sometimes get down on ourselves, but the fist pump keeps us up; it worked out.”
For as much excitement as the court held, the finish was comparatively anti-climactic.
“I hit it and thought it was in, but they called it out,” said Davis. “Then the judge actually turned the call over, and that won it for us.”
Davis won his second title partnered with Ford, and adds to the storied legacy of his tennis-playing family, contributing the sixth playing title, dating back to 1946, the year his grandfather won state for Lincoln High School in Orem, also as a doubles player.
Tennis also runs in the Ford family, as two of his sisters have won state titles. But with Ford’s win Saturday, it would take two more sisters with a title each to match his fourth consecutive doubles’ title.
“I’ve been successful, thankfully,” Ford summarized of his time as a high school tennis player. “I couldn’t be happier, went out strong, and it’s been a fun career.”