BY SHAIN GILLET
Clipper Sports Editor
BOUNTIFUL — The State 5A boys’ tennis tournament kicks off Friday as seven-time defending champion Brighton goes for its eighth tennis title in as many years.
Standing in their way, however, is the Viewmont Vikings tennis team, which swept Region 2 for a second consecutive region title and has plenty of experienced tennis players ready to take on all comers.
“Winning region is the first goal heading into the state competition,” said Vikings coach Mark Burningham. “It makes a big difference when you’re heading into the state competition, and we’ve done really well this year when it comes to region play.”
The Vikings, who were crowned Region 2 champs in back-to-back seasons, will have plenty of fire power when it comes to opening up the tennis tournament. The bracket includes five seniors and the Tullis brothers Sam (a junior) and Jacob (a sophomore).
Both made it to the finals in singles play last year. Sam took home an individual title, and Jacob finished second behind Brighton’s Troy Benson.
Both, however, will bring a strong presence to the bracket when they open the first round, said Burningham.
“They’re dedicated, but they’re not arrogant about it,” he said. “They love to talk about their matches and are constantly talking to their teammates about certain points during the match. Both are also open about giving advice to their teammates as well.”
Sam will be the No. 1 singles player to open the tournament; Jacob will be the No. 2 singles player.
Rounding out the competition will be the remaining seniors on the team.
Nic LeBaron is the third singles player, and the duos of Ethan Hymas and Isaac Ford, and Zach Beckstrand and Brandon Kasparian will play in the first and second doubles brackets.
Even more impressive is the team’s overall winning percentage during region play this season. Their combined record during that time is 49-1.
“They’ve played hard every match this season, not just during region play,” said Burningham. “We won a tournament in St. George right before region play started, and played a couple indoor tournaments where the players have felt really good about their results.”
Standing in their way, however, will be the Bengals. Ranked No. 1 overall, Brighton will get the opportunity to face Viewmont in the semifinals of all three singles brackets. Should either of the Vikings’ doubles teams make it to the finals, a Brighton team is sure to be waiting for them.
Burningham said his team is unphased, however, and looks forward to the challenge of the tournament.
“If you look at the 5A bracket over the years, it’s always had some tough teams and dominant teams,” he said. “I remember when Skyline was winning titles before Brighton was, and we were actually able to sneak in there around 2002 and win a title. We’re not intimated by the bracket at all.”
Burningham added the difference for this year’s team to win a title will be its senior leadership. He believes 2013 is the right time for the Vikings to push past the Bengals, and all other comers, and win a title.
“There are some close matches in each of the brackets so it’s going to be hard to predict where everyone is going to advance,” he said. “We’re hoping to come out as state champions. We just feel it’s the right time for us and we have the leadership and experience to get it done.”
The state finals will be Friday and Saturday.