It didn't feel like the first two rounds of the 4A state tennis tournament Friday at Liberty Park. There were few easy matchups and several matches were even finals-worthy, including a showdown between the defending No. 1 singles champion, Highland's Devin Lane, and rival Matt Cowley from Woods Cross. The two sophomores know each other's games well, and Cowley upset Lane in a tournament last year.
Lane took Friday's first set 6-3 and the second set stayed on serve until Lane broke Cowley to make it 5-4 with Lane serving. Cowley broke right back, however, and the set went to a tiebreaker, where Lane prevailed.
"I was hoping at the beginning of the year that this match would end up being my final," Lane said. "I felt confident going in and am happy with how I played."
"I've seen high school tennis for over 30 years," Timpview coach Rob Sperry said. "I haven't seen a first singles bracket this good in a number of years. It's exceptionally strong this year. That Lane/Cowley matchup — that's like a final."
Timpview's No. 1 singles player, Tanner Perry, fell in a tough match to Cottonwood's freshman juggernaut Matt Sweet. With the second set tied at 5-5, the two played a marathon 15-minute game before Sweet finally took the 6-5 lead and eventually captured the set for the win.
In another tough early round match, Pine View's Burke VanNorman was down two breaks in both of his sets against Bountiful's Josh Bacon, but came back to win both 7-5 for a straight-sets victory.
"You've got to really dig down to come back in both sets like that. He gets the free meal tonight," Pine View head coach Dow Christenson said with a laugh.
Defending No. 2 singles champion Cal Larson from Timpview coasted through his first two matches, but will meet Highland's Sutton Shackelford in today's semis, a rematch of last year's finals match.
"Cal is very sharp," Sperry said. "He's really on his game right now."
"With Sutton playing Cal, I think he's hoping to come back from last year and get a win," Highland head coach Mark Foote said. "It's an important match for the team, and he's a senior so it's an important match to him personally."
With two rounds remaining, Timpview leads the pack with nine points and Pine View is right behind with eight. Bountiful and Highland are also in the team title mix with seven points.
With Timpview and Highland both in the same side of the bracket, the semifinal matches that will open today's play could be where the tournament champion is determined. Both teams are optimistic headed into the final two rounds, but with Pine View and Bountiful also contending, the outcome is up in the air. "We're in a strong position," Sperry said. "It could come down to those semifinal matches."
Play resumes today at 9 a.m. at Liberty Park.