BY SHAIN GILLET
Clipper Sports Editor
SALT LAKE CITY — The Viewmont Vikings boys’ tennis team was the front-runner to knock off the Brighton Bengals in the 5A State tennis tournament.
After it was all over, the Vikings held off the seven-time defending champion Bengals by scoring 22 total points, snapping Brighton’s long streak of title defenses.
The Vikings’ state title was the first for the team since 2002, when they bested Skyline.
“It’s difficult to win the state title in 5A,” said Viewmont coach Mark Burningham. “In the 19 years I’ve been coaching 5A, only four schools have ever won it. There’s been us, Cottonwood, Skyline and Brighton, so it’s a challenge mentally.”
After the first day of action had all seven Vikings players in the semi-finals for Saturday, nearly all of them reachedthe finals. Nic LeBaron, Viewmont’s No. 3 singles player, was the only Viking not to see the final round, and the Tullis brothers of Sam and Jacob took home individual titles when all was said and done.
Meanwhile, Brighton’s first and second singles players were eliminated early, leaving a big opening for Viewmont to pounce on.
“(Brighton) was playing right behind us during competition, so it was tough not to pay attention to what was going on,” said Burningham. “But by watching their two best players lose by the second round, we got pretty excited about that because we knew it created an opportunity for us to win.”
Sam Tullis, a junior who finished Region 2 play with an unblemished record, faced Zeke Richards of Cottonwood in the first singles finals.
He beat Richards 7-6 (6-2), 6-4 to claim his second consecutive title.
Sam’s younger brother Jacob, a sophomore, also won an individual title after beating Andy Ovard of Alta 6-4, 6-1. It was a redeeming tournament for Jacob, who finished second in the state tournament last year.
Jacob Tullis’ win also gave the Vikings enough points to stay ahead of the Bengals, who won each of the last three brackets but fell shy of claiming an eighth straight title.
“Both Sam and Jacob made a huge difference in the tournament,” said Burningham. “Without those points, we probably don’t win the title.”
Viewmont’s duo of Ethan Hymas and Isaac Ford, both seniors, beat Davis’ Cooper Brown and Michael VonBallmoos in order to reach the finals, but fell to Brighton’s Anthony Penuzio and Mitchell Mansell in three sets.
Second doubles finalists Zach Beckstrand and Brandon Kasparian, also seniors, lost to Brighton’s Brandon Budge and Cheyenne Perry in straight sets.
The losses didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, as the team was already celebrating its win following Jacob’s individual title.
“Our first doubles team lost a dogfight of a match,” said Burningham. “Every match we knew we were close (to winning), but we got really excited when we knew we had won.”
The last team not named Brighton to win the 5A title was Skyline in 2005. From 1999-2005, the Eagles had won all but one 5A title in tennis, with the Vikings claiming the 2002 crown.
“Brighton is still a tough team,” said Burningham. “In 2011 we were kind of in the same boat because we had all our players in the semi-finals. They all faced Brighton kids and lost, but we finished second. To be able to come back this year and win it all is great. Those players really deserve it.”