You'll have to forgive Rowland Hall tennis coach Tim Sleeper if he shows up at the upcoming region and state tennis tournaments with his eyes closed, his fingers crossed and a bottle of antacids in his pocket. The parity found in both Region 14 and 2A in general has made several coaches a little anxious. With no clear favorite, both the region and state titles will probably go to whichever team peaks at the right time.
"There are a lot of good, evenly matched teams out there this year," says Sleeper. "It will be interesting to see who comes out on top."
With four of last year's seven varsity players back for at least one more tour of duty, the Griffins have a good chance of doing just that.
Leading the charge for Rowland Hall is first singles ace Daniel Livsey.
Livsey, a junior, has looked good this season and is on the short list of players that could challenge three-time state champion Calvin Bennett for the state title.
Backing up Livsey is fellow junior Stevenson Smith. Although Smith plays at second singles for the Griffins, his talent would put him at the top of the depth chart at many schools in Utah. Matt Bossart rounds out the top three and gives Rowland Hall a serviceable player at third singles.
With archrival Waterford a virtual lock to put up big points in singles play, Sleeper and company will be looking to make up ground with their two doubles teams. Ben Friedman and Andrew Arsht, both of whom are freshmen, comprise the first doubles team, while the tandem of Lawrence Benjamin and Kieren Light are the flavor of the week on a second doubles team that has seen several different combinations of players since the season began.
Although Sleepers' doubles teams are short on experience and still somewhat unsettled, they have more than enough ability to compete with Waterford and Manti, as both schools are trying to finalize their own lineups as well.
"As far as I know, doubles competition is wide open this year," says Sleeper. "Singles play gets most of the attention, but doubles is where the real battle is going to be this season."
While the upcoming state and region tournaments have several coaches tossing and turning into the wee hours of the morning, Sleeper insists that he and his staff focus on something far more significant.
"Success in the classroom is more important than success on the tennis court," says Sleeper. "This team has a 3.8 cumulative GPA. These are some of the hardest-working kids I've ever coached."