SALT LAKE CITY – Last year the Viewmont Vikings tennis team shocked the entire 5A classification by beating out seven-time defending champion Brighton by three points.
Now with the target squarely on their backs, the Vikings have a strong line-up and an even stronger drive to take home a second straight tennis title.
“It’s exciting to get to defend a state title, but we also know that it will be difficult,” said Vikings coach Mark Burningham. “When you look at the history of high school tennis, every once in a while you see a team jump in there and take a title, but there’s typcially a long list of the same schools winning the title for a lot of years.”
The Vikings returned to Region 1 with their state title in tow, and promptly took home the region title after sweeping the finals over Davis last week.
Burningham said the Darts were a tough team to beat, especially in the two doubles matches, but was satisfied with how both his doubles teams were able to pull through the matches.
“Both of those doubles teams took losses to the Davis doubles teams this season,” Burningham said. “So it was nice to see them win and fight through the loss.”
Two familiar names to tennis fans of the Vikings will be brothers Sam and Jake Tullis, who were crowned individual state champions last season.
Both have seen the highs of winning in region matches and the lows of losing in non-region, but each fought his way to a No. 1 seed in first and second singles as they head into Thursday’s first round.
“They both play quite a lot outside of the school,” Burningham said. “Sam was named one of the best junior players and both of them won a doubles title in a different tournament this year, so it’s nice to have that kind of experience when they both get on the tennis court.”
Freshman Jack Taylor finished 9-0 in region play and won an individual title in his first competitive year in high school.
Taylor will be joined by another freshman in Ethan Campbell, who will be playing alongside senior Preston Hymas in the second doubles bracket. The duo finished 8-1 this season.
The sophomore and junior duo of Jens Filmore and Henry Blackburn will represent Viewmont in the first doubles bracket, replacing Ethan Hymas and Isaac Ford from last year.
Even though the majority of this year’s state lineup doesn’t have the experience, to be able to view the state capturing moments last year is enough for them to be motivated to help the Vikings repeat this year.
“Other than the Tullis brothers we don’t have a lot of returning experience,” he said. “But those players that saw us win last year want this because they’ve seen it. Now they want to be a part of it and I think that’s a big motivator for them.”
Viewmont’s biggest challenge, however, will be Brighton, which finished three points shy of becoming an eight-time tennis champion.
The goal, however, will be to make it through one match at a time.
“We’re keeping it simple,” Burningham said. “We want to finish Day One getting through the first two rounds. We’ll see what happens from there.”
The first two rounds of the state 5A tennis tournament begin Thursday at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City.
The park tennis courts are located at 900 S. 700 East.
For more information or for a full bracket of the 4A and 5A tennis tournament, visit uhsaa.org.