SALT LAKE CITY — Much like last year's state tennis tournament, most can expect the final outcome to be decided by the narrowest of margins.
St. Joseph hoisted the overall team title in 2011, narrowly edging Rowland Hall by a single point.
It will be even more interesting Saturday, given the fact that the defending champs didn't qualify for any of the singles play in this year's tournament.
Kelsey Almony and Katie Panushka return to the courts for the 2012 tournament at first doubles, along with Audra Thurston and sophomore partner Ali Koehler.
There are realistically only 10 points up for grabs for St. Joseph, should both teams manage to sweep their respective opponents.
Rowland Hall poses as the best threat to dethrone St. Joseph, which is no surprise to Winged Lion head coach Tim Sleeper.
"I actually think we've got a shot every year to be honest, but it doesn't always turn out the way that we want and obviously you can't win them all," said Sleeper. "We've got to execute, and it really depends on how we play out there."
Rowland Hall senior Madeline Foley returns to defend the first singles title, opening play this weekend against Richfield junior Madison Utley. Lexus Latham returns to the tournament for her quarterfinal match against Maeser Prep junior Holly Miller. Grand senior Brianna Ballard is bringing an undefeated 10-0 record into the tournament, and is looking to better last year's semifinal exit.
Rowland Hall's Kaitlin Ramsey has her sights set on the second singles title, after taking her talents all the way to the championship and coming up just shy in a narrow 6-4, 6-2 defeat. An early quarterfinal match against fellow senior McKenzie Christensen of South Sevier should set the pace for the rest of the afternoon.
Ciara Lyman will represent San Juan in second singles, and Richfield senior Janell Starr will have to defend her 9-1 record this season. Waterford sisters Molly Peterson and Grace Peterson are hoping to shake things up in singles play to bring a title back to the Ravens for the first time since 2009.
If anyone wants a shot at the third singles title, their quest begins at the front door of two-time defending third singles champ Scout Swenson. The Rowland Hall senior also has a first doubles title under her belt from 2009, so it's easy to say the seven underclassmen in the third singles bracket face an uphill challenge.
Sleeper has a simple game plan when it comes to setting a standard for his team.
"School first, fun second and winning third," mentioned Sleeper. "We try and make sure the girls are getting good grades and having fun otherwise."
It should come as no surprise that a majority of these state tennis tournaments come down to doubles play, where the final match of the day can make or break a team's chance at the crown. San Juan qualified seniors Brenna Bleggi and Kiley Averette, along with juniors Brittney Macdonald and Emily Royer. Grand, Richfield and Waterford all have the potential to make noise in doubles play— which confirms things may come down to the wire.
"More often than not it usually does come down to the doubles match that is out on the court last, and you've got everyone around the court cheering on who's going to be the state champ," said coach Sleeper.
Play begins Saturday at the Liberty Park tennis courts, with players assembling at 8:30 a.m. for court assignments.