Despite some new faces, Olympus boys tennis snags runner-up spot in region
May 14, 2019 03:14PM
● By Josh McFadden
Olympus’ Oscar Smith teamed with Sawyer Peterson to place second at the Region 6 tournament in first singles. (Photo by Trace Stanger.)
By Josh McFadden | [email protected]
For some teams, replacing key starters and bringing inexperienced players onboard is a recipe for a rough season. This wasn’t the case for the Olympus boys tennis squad.
The Titans began the campaign facing what head coach Mike Epperson called a “rebuilding” year. Still, Olympus more than held its own on the court. The team began the year by winning the 12-team St. George Tournament and prepared for state by finishing in second place at the Region 6 tournament May 9.
Epperson is pleased with the progress his group made. He’s optimistic about what lies ahead for the team.
“We are a developing team that is working hard to achieve the success we’ve had the last few years in this program,” he said. “Consistency with young players is always an issue, but these boys have grown up a lot the last three months and believe they are in a position to have great success for the near future. Whether that will be in the state tournament, we’ll have to wait and see.”
In the region tournament, Olympus qualified its entire team for state, making it four years in a row the program has sent every varsity player to this culminating event.
“Not many schools have that kind of streak in the state of Utah,” Epperson said.
Three players placed second at the region matches: Stewart Goodson, first singles; Sawyer Peterson and Oscar Smith, first doubles; and Milo Headden and Charlie Nadauld, second doubles. Third singles competitor Matt Holmes entered state as the No. 3 seed in the third singles position. Second singles player Ethan Stanger placed fourth in region to qualify for state.
This success came despite some injury woes. Goodson had a hurt shoulder, but instead of forfeiting his matches, he played through the pain and served underhand. He made it all the way to the finals before losing to whom Epperson called “arguably the best player in the state,” Connor Robb-Wilcox, of Skyline. Holmes has battled foot problems throughout the year and has even had troubles running this season.
“I’m optimistic if we can get (Goodson) healed up, he can win some matches at state,” Epperson said. “Holmes fought hard to earn that third seed. Our doubles teams have been solid all year, and I expect some wins at state from those teams.”
In preparation for the state tournament, held at Liberty Park May 16 and 18, Epperson was excited to see what his qualifiers could do against top-notch competition.
“Expectations at state are always high, as I expect a lot from my boys,” he said. “But the reality is, we are truly in a rebuilding year, and they have exceeded my expectations by each individual qualifying for state and receiving good seeds going into the tournament, which really helps in moving forward come the time to play. I’d be thrilled if we can get any player or team to the Saturday finals. If my players stay focused, especially the doubles team, and utilize the strategies they’ve been taught, I believe we can get them to the semifinals. They are all younger players, so we’ll see what happens.”
Outside of results on the court, Epperson has enjoyed working with this group of players and watching the improvements they’ve made. He also lauded them for their good attitudes and the way they’ve represented the school.
“The most satisfying aspect of the season is building relationships and trust with these great boys,” he said. “When a team knows what’s expected, and the coach is consistent with praise and discipline, the team seems to step up and respond in a positive manner. Every practice, the boys come ready to have fun and work hard. The improvements and quality of tennis I see from the JV squad gives me great optimism of where this program is heading for the future. Olympus tennis, for the years to come, will be a program to be reckoned with and will always be one of the toughest teams to compete against.”