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Juan Diego girls are tennis titans

DRAPER — On the strength of two outstanding singles players, Juan Diego's girls tennis team made the leap into 3A after winning the 1A/2A title last year. The team hopes to win a state title again in 2005.

To accomplish that feat, coach Arthur Miyazaki and his team will likely have to overcome defending champs Pine View and Region 11's Ogden.

"Our goal is to try to win state," Miyazaki said.

Juan Diego was defeated 3-2 by both Pine View and Ogden during the season, and Miyazaki said he's been spending his time trying to figure out how to squeeze another win from his other three positions.

That's assuming that his No. 1 and No. 2 singles players continue their dominance when the Class 3A championships roll around.

Sophomore Romina Nedakovic won the 1A/2A No. 1 singles title in convincing fashion and looks like the heavy favorite in 3A. She's excelled on the junior's circuit and brings that experience to high school tennis.

Paige Miles has been nearly as impressive from her No. 2 singles spot. Like Nedakovic, Miles has vast tournament experience and looks like a solid favorite, too.

Miyazaki said there are three types of high school girl tennis players: recreational players, club players and tournament players. Both Nedakovic and Miles fall into the latter category.

"It's a tremendous asset (to have two tournament players)," Miyazaki said. "Those players are two steps above everyone else. . . . Tournament players can handle the big shots."

Miyazaki said both players share many of the same strengths.

"They both hit the ball really, really hard, and they're both very consistent," he said.

Both players help coach their teammates, even though they're still very young.

"They help teach the medium-range players on how you should attack the other player, and I'll have them for a couple more years," Miyazaki said. "It gives the players an idea on what they should be aspiring to."

With Nedakovic and Miles leading from the front, Miyazaki has been trying to fill in his other varsity positions behind them.

With the Region 8 tournament drawing closer, Juan Diego's three other varsity spots are all still up in the air.

Elly Henshaw, Brittney Neilson, Mandie Divino, Atlea Rainaldi, Linsey Kreclic and Katie Archuleta are all in the mix, among others.

Because his team narrowly lost 3-2 to 3A front-runners Pine View and Ogden, Miyazaki has been switching those three varsity spots around because he knows it could be the difference between winning and losing state.

Being able to win three of five state titles would put the Soaring Eagle in prime position to win their second-straight state championship, but they could also win the title by winning No. 1 and No. 2 singles while advancing the other three varsity spots as far as possible.

"I've got to get another win somewhere or get our other positions as far into the tournament as we can," Miyazaki said.

While he's seen the two expected front-runners (Pine View and Ogden), Miyazaki looks forward to meeting some of the other traditional favorites, like Grantsville or Judge, at the state tournament.

"We look forward to seeing them," he said.

Prospects at a glance

Juan Diego looks like the heavy favorite to win the league title in its first season in 3A. At the halfway mark of region play, the Soaring Eagle had breezed through each opponent unscathed.

Juan Diego boasts two of the classification's best players in Romina Nedakovic and Paige Miles. Both players will be favorites to win state titles.

Behind the Soaring Eagle, North Sanpete and Emery are both expected to challenge for second place in Region 8. Carbon, Emery and Granite will likely be fighting for fourth place.

Led by coach Nicole Robinson, the Farmers hope for a decent season. Ema Ardovic, Danielle Bernard, Sanda Botic, Mary Simental and Deirdre Southwick will be playing at varsity positions for Granite.