The most decorated high school tennis player to ever come out of Cache Valley certainly made the most of her final opportunity to represent Ridgeline.
Naya Tillitt capped off her sensational prep career by easily capturing her fourth straight state title at No. 1 singles. The Riverhawk senior rolled to a 6-1, 6-0 win over Morgan Behymer of Desert Hills for her latest triumph at the 4A Girls Tennis Championships, which concluded Saturday afternoon at Salt Lake City’s Liberty Park.
“It means a lot to me,” Tillitt said. “A lot of people tell me about how cool it is that I’m making history, and it’s nice to just sit back and realize that it means a lot to not only me, but it also means quite a bit to other people, even if that’s just family and close friends.”
Tillitt only lost four games during her four matches at the two-day tournament. Additionally, the future Utah State player only dropped one set during her high school career at the state championships — Tillitt was a freshman at the time — and she bounced back to dominate her opponent, defending first singles state champion Livi Rockwood of Park City, 6-0, 6-0 in the final two sets.
This was the first time in four years Tillitt didn’t square off in the finals against Rockwood, who graduated a few months ago. Additionally, Park City moved up a classification this academic year.
“Yeah, it didn’t really feel like state without the Rockwood sisters being there,” Tillitt said. “... I’m friends with both of them, so it was just different. It felt different, but the (title match) was still pretty tough.”
Tillitt secured her spot in the finals by defeating Dixie’s Kylie Kezos, 6-1, 6-1, in the semifinals. The Nibley native then proceeded to make quick work of Region 9 titleist Behymer, a solid player who advanced to at least the round of four at first singles for the third consecutive year. This is the first time Tillitt and Behymer have ever played each other.
How was Tillitt able to take control against a well-respected opponent?
“I was really feeling my groundstrokes today,” she said. “I think I was able to force a lot of short, weaker balls from her off of my serve and off of a good return. She’s a lefty, so it was a little bit harder adjusting to her spin on her serve at the beginning, because she did have a good serve. But after a while, I just started stepping into the balls and going for more.
“... I just tried to play to win without worrying too much about making mistakes, or even losing games, because I’d rather do the right things and lose a few games than do the wrong things and win 6-0, 6-0.”
Behymer dispatched of Logan’s Yeeke Wang, 6-1, 6-2, to earn the right to face Tillitt.
Several players from Region 11 punched their ticket to the second day of the tournament, but Tillitt was the only one to win a match Saturday.
Ridgeline teammate Madi Brenchley was eliminated in the semis at No. 2 singles by eventual champion Mackenzie Telford of Desert Hills, 6-1, 6-1. Telford, the runner-up at second singles a year ago, only lost three games in the finals. Brenchley, the 2018 4A champ at No. 3 singles, qualified for Day 2 of the tourney for the third year in a row.
Green Canyon’s Phoenix Davis made a valiant effort to advance to the championship round at No. 3 singles, but was ousted by eventual champ Tia Turley of Desert Hills in three sets. Davis didn’t lose a game in the opening set, but neither did Turley in the second. Turley won the decisive third set, 6-2.
Logan’s Jisung Lee also competed in the round of four at third singles, where she was eliminated by Dixie’s Brynlee Cardell, 6-1, 6-2. Cardell outpointed Ridgeline’s Meera Gardner in the quarterfinals.
Sky View was represented in the semifinal round at second doubles by Emily Coombs and Saydee Godfrey. The Bobcat duo was sent packing by Pine View’s Olivia Obray and Katrina Hafen, 6-2, 6-1. Hafen and Obray also reigned supreme in the finals.
Desert Hills pulled away from Region 9 rival Dixie in the team competition and claimed the title with 24 points to the Flyers’ 18. The two teams were tied with a maximum 10 points after Day 1 of the competition.
The Thunder made it to the finals at four of the five positions, and emerged victorious at second singles, third singles and first doubles. Dixie competed for 4A crowns in four of the positions, but went winless in those matches.
Ridgeline finished third with 10 points, which was one ahead of Pine View. Logan was fifth with six points, immediately followed by Green Canyon with five. Sky View and Ogden tied for the No. 8 spot with three points apiece.
The Riverhawks have finished in the top three in the team competition at the state championships in each of their four years as a program. Tillitt and Brenchley propelled Ridgeline to the team title in dramatic fashion a year ago. The Riverhawks outlasted Desert Hills and Park City by one point.
“It’s been a blast and I’m pretty sad that it’s over, but I’m also excited (about the future),” Tillitt said. “It’s different when you’re playing with a team (because) you have to think of more than just yourself. And even though it is very much an individual sport, everything is going into something that’s bigger than you, and so I think we’ve had such a successful team and it’s not because of me or because of anyone, but it’s because everybody’s putting work in and we’re able to accomplish it together, which is nice.
“It’s been a lot of fun. I love the girls on the team. I’ve made some really close friends. I wouldn’t change anything.”