MILLVILLE — There’s no question the Wolves are the team to beat among Region 11 girls tennis programs this season.
It appears Green Canyon might also be the team everyone else is gunning for at the 4A State Championships. The Wolves certainly proved themselves at the 12-squad St. George Invitational last weekend as they captured the runner-up trophy. As expected, defending 6A state champion Skyridge won the tournament.
Green Canyon placed higher than Crimson Cliffs and Desert Hills, who both finished with more points than the Wolves at the 4A state tourney a year ago. In fact, Green Canyon dispatched of reigning 4A champ Crimson Cliffs, 4-1, on Day 1 of the St. George Invite.
“I think that the team all did really, really well,” GC first singles player Bailey Huebner said. “It was really awesome to take second at the event, only losing to a 6A team. And everybody played really well down there. The coaches were helping a lot and it was really, really fun.”
Green Canyon was joined in southern Utah by Ridgeline, and both programs competed in 100-plus-degree temperatures on both days. Neither team had much time to recover as the Riverhawks hosted the Wolves in a region dual on Tuesday. In fact, Ridgeline had even less recovery time as it picked up a very hard-fought 3-2 victory over Logan on Monday.
The Wolves improved to 5-0 in region duals by dispatching of the Riverhawks by a 4-1 scoreline. This was the first time the defending champions didn’t sweep an intra-valley opponent, though.
It’s been an impressive freshman season for Huebner, who has only lost once so far. Huebner played a very cerebral match en route to defeating Ridgeline’s Ellie Carlston, 6-0, 6-0. Huebner did a good job of continually making Carlston move side to side and picking her spots to go for outright winners.
“I think that credit has to go a lot to my coaches,” Huebner said. “Ellie’s a really good player and I feel like if I didn’t really think about (my game) more that she could have beat me. And the coaches have just been really helping me figure out the game of tennis and get all of my shots right.”
Green Canyon has been dominant in doubles during the 2021 campaign, and that trend continued Tuesday. Olivia Phillips and Alice Wilkinson reigned supreme 6-1, 6-1 at first doubles, while Ava Checketts and Maren McKenna only dropped one game at the No. 2 spot.
Wilkinson and Phillips are the defending region champs at No. 1 doubles, while McKenna is the reigning region and 4A champ at No. 2 doubles. Checketts captured a region title at third singles last season and, like Phillips and Wilkinson, advanced to the round of four at state.
The Wolves have only lost once so far this year at both doubles positions.
“We try to emphasize our doubles,” GC head coach Holly Haslem said. “You know, we don’t just look at the top three players playing singles. We try to look at their games and see how well they can play doubles. And we take a while to put our teams together, but it’s so that we can make sure that their chemistry’s right, it’s so that we can make sure that their games complement each other.”
Green Canyon was also triumphant at third singles Tuesday as Emma Murri came away with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Kaitlyn Horsburgh, who was a 4A finalist at second doubles last fall. Several games in this match went to multiple deuces.
Murri stormed back from a 3-2 deficit in the first set and captured seven straight games spanning the first and second sets. Murri started looking for opportunities to close out points at the net late in the second set and it paid off as she had a pair of volley winners in the final game — the second on match point.
Haslem was pleased with how Murri performed Tuesday and in St. George.
“It’s been fun to watch Emma grow,” Haslem said. “She played a couple of amazing girls down in St. George, one of them being the Crimson (Cliffs) player, and to watch her just step up and be confident hitting with these girls who are just incredible players, it was thrilling for me as her coach. ... I think that was huge for her and for her confidence to compete against those big players and hang right in there with them.”
A solid Ridgeline squad avoided the sweep thanks to Emma Hansen, who prevailed against Halle Kendrick at second singles, 7-5, 6-2. Neither athlete led by more than one game in the opening set until Hansen pulled out the last two games. The senior then proceeded to finish strong as she claimed the final four games of the second set.
“I think it was just my mentality of just keep going, keep going because you’ve already won the first set, so you already have a little bit of a lead, but just keep pushing as much as you possibly can,” Hansen said of her mindset in the second set.
In was a big day for Hansen, who sang the national anthem prior to Tuesday’s dual.
“I love to sing the national anthem, but I think it just made me happy to sing and show people what I can do off the court and on the court,” said Hansen, who was a 4A semifinalist at No. 1 doubles as a junior. “Yeah, it was awesome.”
More details about Monday’s Ridgeline-Logan dual will be found in the weekly girls tennis roundup that has been running and will continue to run in Saturday’s edition of the Herald Journal.
MORE ST. GEORGE DETAILS
Day 1 of the tourney featured pool play and there were three groups of four teams. Green Canyon was paired with Crimson Cliffs, Dixie and Salem Hills, and swept Dixie and Salem Hills, plus only dropped one match to Crimson Cliffs. Ridgeline was paired with Pine View, Provo and Murray. The Riverhawks swept Pine View, and bested Murray and Provo, 4-1.
The second day of the tournament was divided into individual brackets, and their were gold, silver and bronze divisions. To their credit, the Wolves and Riverhawks advanced four of their five positions to the gold bracket.
Murri was the runner-up in the gold bracket for Green Canyon at third singles, as were teammates Phillips and Wilkinson at first doubles. Huebner (first singles) and the second doubles tandem of McKenna/Checketts placed third in the top bracket.
Huebner tested the Skyridge girl before falling, 8-6, in the semifinals. Pro sets were used throughout the tournament.
Hansen was the runner-up for Ridgeline at second singles in the gold bracket, while Horsburgh placed third in that same bracket at third singles. Horsburgh got revenge against an opponent from Provo she lost to at the beginning of the season, and she dispatched of that girl twice last weekend.