In both the 5A and the 1A/2A state tennis tournaments this year, the doubles matches could be the difference in determining which team wins the state championship. Last year's team champions (Brighton and Rowland Hall, which tied with now 3A Waterford for the title) are favored to repeat, but with what looks like a handful of teams locked in an absolute battle in the doubles matches, especially in 5A, the outcome is still undecided.
At the 1A/2A level, Rowland Hall is the hands-down favorite. Manti from the south region should not be overlooked, though.
Manti perennially fields a strong team, and the Templars were in the lead following the semifinals of last year's tournament. Although they lost a number of key seniors from last season's team, they also return several younger players who got valuable experience playing in last year's tourney.
Upstart Meridian made a good showing at region, finishing second to Rowland Hall, while Richfield also typically competes hard and should make things interesting at state.
"I can't make any predictions on anything as far as state," Rowland Hall head coach Tim Sleeper said. "We're just going to go and play our best and see what happens."
Rowland Hall's first and second singles players from last year's team, Stevenson Smith and Daniel Livsey, are both playing doubles this season, while sophomore Sam Miller and freshman Joe Illingworth take over at first and second singles. Sophomore Matt Bossart returns to third singles, and last year's second doubles player Robert Thompson is also back, partnering with Livsey, while newcomer Allan Ward plays with Smith for the deep Winged Lions.
At the 5A level, most pick Brighton to repeat, but it's still very much up in the air.
Although Brighton swept Skyline earlier this season, the Eagles fought back and took both doubles matches at region last week. Brighton won the tournament, but Hillcrest also took several second-place spots, which keeps things interesting.
Skyline's doubles will face tough competition from Bingham's doubles teams of Alex Dial and Troy Winder (second doubles) and Jeff Peterson and Steven Balls (first doubles), who have gone through the season undefeated.
"Our team should be competitive, but it should be interesting," Bingham head coach Dave Davis said. "We hope our doubles teams will do pretty well and go deep. There will be no easy matches because of the depth of the field."
Also in the mix will be Lone Peak, Spanish Fork (which took second in both doubles and the team overall competition to Lone Peak at region), Layton and Davis.
As far as singles goes, Brighton is going to be tough to touch. They return first and second singles champions Spencer Smith and Corbin Benson, and newcomer Grant Taylor at third singles is touted as being just as good.