Dixie, Pine View and Grantsville are the perennial powers in girls tennis each fall.
Last year, however, there was an unfamiliar team in the mix — Judge Memorial Catholic High School. The Bulldogs finished third last year, just two points behind second-place Dixie, and they look to be just as strong this season heading to state with four of five No. 1 seeds from region 10.
"There were a whole bunch of schools that called us for practice matches this year," said Judge coach Susan Daynes of the move from obscurity to contender. Among those non-region opponents, Hillcrest, the 5A state champions, and Bountiful, the 4A state champions.
Adds first singles player Amy Stevens, "We hardly had to practice because we played so many matches."
The Bulldogs said they may have been a bit nervous last year when they qualified most of their players for semifinals but then had just second singles Emily Kennedy make it to a finals match. This year, they expect to be in the semifinals at a minimum.
"We built our team up from nothing, so we have to do better than we did last year," said first doubles player Rachel Franks. "I want to do better than we did last year, or it's no good."
The team moved some players on their doubles teams, including pairing sisters Julia and Annabelle Milliken together, something that didn't please the siblings initially.
"They weren't happy about it at first, but we kind of talked them into it, and they did well," said Daynes.
The 3A teams start state tournament play in St. George on Friday, with the semifinals and finals scheduled for Saturday, and the usual suspects all look to be in the race for a team title. Grantsville, like Judge, has four No. 1 seeds, including defending champions Karleen Watson, second singles, and Amanda Leonelli, third singles.
First singles will be exciting and unpredictable as about a half dozen talented players vie for the state title. Last year's defending champion, Jessica Carter, enters as Region 9's No. 1 seed and is looking to make it two in a row. She'll have to go through some strong players, including Amy Stevens, a No. 2 seed from Judge who played a lot of matches against players from bigger schools this season. Sami Sego, North Sanpete, is Region 8's No. 1 seed, and if all goes as planned, she could meet Carter in the quarterfinals.
In the upper bracket, Park City's undefeated Devin Peek may have the best chance at upsetting Carver. She's Region 10's No. 1 seed, while Tori Armeson, Ogden, is Region 10's top seed. Grantsville's Emmi Nelson, Region 11's second seed should also be in the mix of top players. She lost to Carver in last year's first singles final.
In second singles, Nelson's teammate, Karleen Watson, is Region 11's top seed, while Emily Kennedy, Judge, is Region 10's champ. In the lower bracket, Alexis Almquist, Pine View, is the top seed from Region 9. Carly Oler, Lehi, is the No. 1 player out of Region 8.
Another Cowboy singles player sits atop the brackets in third singles, with Amanda Leonelli winning the title in Region 11. Megan Manoni, Judge, is region 10's No. 1 seed, while Nikki Anderson is Region 9's top player. Carlee Earl, North Sanpete, is Region 8's No. 1 seed and shares the lower bracket with Anderson.
Lacey Cole/Monica Aagard, Grantsville, earned region 11's No. 1 seed in first doubles, while Frank/Valdez earned Region 10's top spot. Lauren Wright/Karlie Hancock, Pine View, are the top duo in Region 9, while Heather Garlick/Toni Garlick, are the top seed from Region 8.
In second doubles, Grantsville's Bethany Swenson/Natalie Tripp make-up the top duo from Region 11, and Annabelle Milliken/Julia Milliken, Judge, are Region 10's No. 1 seed. Nikki Zimmer/Christian Hale, Pine View, are the top seed from Region 9, while Andrea peel/Maria Peel are the top team from Region 8.