Sanpete netters get to, but not past, state semis
By Robert Stevens
Oct. 6, 2017
SALT LAKE CITY—Despite facing stiff competition after 2A and 3A schools were combined into a single state tennis tournament, several Sanpete County athletes climbed the bracket ladder only to falter in the semi-finals last week.
Katie Foley of Rowland Hall took the girls singles championship for the third time. Foley clashed hard with Sophie Christensen of Waterford but ultimately defeated her, 4-6,6-2, 6-2.
The tournament on Thursday, Sept. 28 and Saturday, Sept. 30 started out at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City, but rainy weather forced a moved to indoor courts at the Salt Lake Tennis and Health Club.
Combining of the 2A and 3A schools into a single tournament was in accordance with a Utah High School Activities Association reclassification ruling. In several cases, the merger created a mix of schools that wouldn’t have faced off otherwise.
Wasatch Academy, Manti, Gunnison and North Sanpete High School all had state- qualified players on the courts the first day of the tourney.
North Sanpete entered the fray as Sanpete County’s most capable team, having finished a close second behind Richfield in the region tournament last month.
The Lady Hawks being the top team in the county was a recurring theme in the state tournament too.
In first-singles play, Lady Hawk Hannah Ostraff carved her way deep into the brackets, first winning against Carbon Lady Dino Jewelianna Nielsen, 6-2,6-0. In the second round, Ostraff faced Clista Galecki from Wasatch Academy and bested her, 6-2, 6-4.
Then in what could have been her second-to-last game on the way to a state title, Ostraff faced Sophie Christensen of Waterford, the player who later gave Katie Foley of Rowland Hall a tough fight for the championship.
Christensen proved to be too much for Ostraff. Christensen beat the Lady Hawk, 6-0, 6-0, to move on to the championship round.
“Hannah did really good at preparing her mental toughness for the games,” NSHS tennis coach Matt Braithwaite said. “Even though she lost in the semi-finals, she played a fantastic game, and I think she could have actually won that one.”
North Sanpete also saw its first-doubles team, comprised of McKenna Nielsen and Nakiah Taylor, make its way into the semi finals, too. But that team, too, fell to the ultimate second-place winner.
Nielsen and Taylor beat Huxley Ann Huefner and Paige Smaligo from Waterford, 6-2,6-1, and then conquered Selina Fawson and Taylor Polad from Morgan, 6-6,6-4.
Only Paige Peterson and Lexi Carlson of Grantsville stopped Nielsen and Taylor in a 7-5, 7-6 (5) battle.
North Sanpete had the highest team score for a Sanpete school. The Hawks ended in a three-way tie with Morgan and Rowland Hall at six points. That put the three schools in a tie for sixth place.
One of the best performances from Manti came from the second-doubles team of Whitney Dyreng and Alexis Naylor. They moved through the brackets, beating Waterford and Juab teams, before Kristen Crowther and Ellie Hair of Richfield bested them in a tie-breaker, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (6).
Manti coach Todd Jorgensen said, “That was just a really great game. A lot of momentum was going back and forth and it just game down to that tie-breaker.”
Manti’s team tied with Juab at five points, which put the Templars in seventh place in the tournament.
Wasatch Academy and Gunnison both had a presence at the state tourney. Lady Tiger Clista Galecki won her first round against Jade Warren of San Juan, 7-5, 6-2, before losing to Ostraff of North Sanpete.
The Gunnison pair of Ruth Lyons and Katlyn Underwood started their first round against Judge Memorial, the school that ended up taking state with 17 total points.
The Judge team beat Gunnison in a matchup that never would have happened were it not for this year’s combined tournament. The score was 6-2, 6-2 for Judge.
Gunnison coach Keith Erickson said the reclassification has posed challenges for Gunnison.
“It makes for some stiffer competition,” he said. “The big schools are happy about it, but the smaller schools, not so much.”
Jorgensen, the Manti coach, also said he had seen a sharp increase in competition with the merger of classifications into one big tournament.
North Sanpete coach Braithwaite says he thinks the shift in classifications has benefits. In some cases, he said, it allows North Sanpete to compete against similar-size schools, as opposed to bigger ones, like St. George. But he admits some of the private schools now folded into North Sanpete’s class could be a wild card in state competition.
“If we stick to this commitment with the program, and keep consistent, the kids are going to be enthusiastic about being able to compete with more schools,” Braithwaite said.