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Earning their stripes: Preseason favorite Orem dominates Region 7 girls tennis

Orem High's No. 1 singles player Kaitlyn Craig plays a match against Provo High Tuesday. She is undefeated so far in the 2005 season.
Orem High's No. 1 singles player Kaitlyn Craig plays a match against Provo High Tuesday. She is undefeated so far in the 2005 season.
Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News

Tigers are on the prowl in Utah County.

When it comes to 4A tennis south of the Point of the Mountain, the Orem Tigers have a whole lot more bite than roar.

The Region 7 favorites have torn apart every team in league competition, and not a single varsity player has lost.

Orem coach Lynsi Pearson is confident the rampage will continue and believes that unless something disastrous happens to her team, every single player will easily find herself the top seed from Utah County in the state tournament at Liberty Park the first week in October.

Last year's Region 7 champions and the third-place finishers at state are looking to accomplish at least as much this season. They hope to put together a tough matchup with one of the northern contenders before rushing headlong to Liberty Park.

"We want to get a match with tougher competition before state," said Pearson.

Orem's No. 1 singles player Kaitlyn Craig has powered through all comers. Not only has she gone undefeated without losing a set, the competition hasn't even come close to throwing a scare into her.

She has a tough two-handed backhand with plenty of power and deep, penetrating shots. She's also been working a bit more on rushing to the net.

Her closest competition in the region could easily come from her own teammate, freshman Andie Young, who is impressive enough that the coach believes the young gun could vie for the top spot on the team. But as the team's No. 2 singles player, Young is firing her way through the region in similar fashion to Craig.

Pearson believes Young could make her way through region in the top spot without a loss, but she's still playing behind Craig for the blue and yellow.

The Tigers' third singles player has experience on the court as part of the Tigers' No. 2 doubles team last year. But this season Stacee Rowley moved her talents to the singles court and hasn't dropped a set since.

Last year's No. 1 doubles team of Nicole Clark and Ashley Call split up after their second-place finish at state last season, but both are still plying their doubles skills on the court with different partners.

Michelle Peterson moved up to play No. 1 doubles with Call, who's looking to improve upon the second-place finish and move to the top of the podium with her new partner. Like all of their teammates, they've blown through league competition with their eyes closed.

The No. 2 doubles pair is just as much of a favorite to sweep region as Nicole Clark and Courtney Kezerian round out the dominating force.

They are the biggest, fastest and most powerful cats in the jungle, but as four teams at each level of competition advance to the region tournament with three heading to state, the other schools will be vying for those coveted positions.

The team most likely to waltz through the rest of Region 7 and put all five levels of competition into the league finals is the Springville Red Devils, who've pretty much bested everyone but the striped cats.

Danniella Galbraith is second at the No. 1 singles position and has taken over the court against all but Craig. She should follow the Tigers to Liberty Park without much trouble, as should her teammate and No. 2 singles player Jamie Johnson.

"These girls have played really hard, and they practiced a lot over the summer. They've improved 100 percent," said Springville coach Aiman Arafat.

The two juniors should easily advance from Region 7 competition, which will be held at Springville High in two weeks. Laken Lewis is the No. 3 singles player and should also be a favorite to advance.

Timpview also fields a solid team with plenty of hope for advancement to state. The Thunderbirds singles players are led by Shino Tagai, who plays with two hands on both sides and puts massive backspin on her shots.

The No. 1 doubles team of Kelsey Dahl and Jessica Farnsworth should also put up a big fight at regionals.

Lehi is the surprise team of the year, as the Pioneers have pulled off a couple of upsets.

"Lehi is a surprisingly tough team, young and hard-working," said Pearson. "They're doing really well for moving up from 3A."

They're led by No. 1 singles player McKall Christensen, but their best chances at state might come from No. 3 singles player Mikell Despain and No. 2 doubles team Lindsey Lewis and Megan Lewis.

Provo's Tessa Washburn should also put up a fight at No. 1 singles, but the rest of her team is young and inexperienced, as are the Payson Lions. This year's region battle will be a war for second place as the Tigers all but have the top spot wrapped up and put under the tree.


E-mail: jolsen@desnews.com