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Sugar House Journal

Highland boys tennis engineers an impressive turnaround

May 09, 2018 16h03 ● By Josh Mc Fadden

The Highland varsity boys tennis team from left: Will Olsen, Daichi Masuki, Jake Bauman, Will Dale, McKay Bradford, Jacob Jepsen, Abram Toronto. (Photo/Kami Hatch)

By Josh McFadden | [email protected]           

If the non-region portion of the season was any indication, good things are in store for the Highland boys tennis team.

The Rams have impressed head coach Jeanine Elsholz, who praised her team’s hard work and dedication in practice and throughout the early portions of the season. Highland went 7-2 in non-league action, with its only two losses coming in close fashion in tournament play. Both defeats came in third-set tiebreakers.

The Rams won the Riverton Tournament earlier this season and placed fourth among 24 teams in the St. George Tournament. Outside of those two tournaments, the Rams swept every opponent in non-region matches.

Not bad for a team that was winless in 2017.

“The turnaround from last year to this year has been quite remarkable,” Elsholz said. “It is pretty rare in sports to make that big of a jump in one season.”

Elsholz credits the improvement to the boys’ desire to get better and for the time and work they have put in as individuals and as a team.

Elsholz said the team demonstrates a never-say-die attitude.

“I have been so impressed with how mentally strong they are and how they battle to the very end of every match. Their effort level has been outstanding,” she said.

“Even with the early success they have seen this season, they continue to work hard at practice every day. I can't express enough how proud I am of them, for paying the price it takes to improve. Not many players are willing to spend so much offseason time, but these boys have been so dedicated, and their hard work is paying off.”

The Rams started region matches the third week of April. Highland faces Region 6 foes Olympus, Murray, Skyline, West, and East. Though her team fared well in matches leading up to region play, she knows bigger challenges lie ahead.

“They have made big strides, but there are more mountains to climb,” she said. “They all need to continue to improve their skills level, but I love what I have seen from them this year. We will be facing some great teams. We definitely have our work cut out for us in the next few weeks.”

The Class 5A state tournament will be held May 18-19 at Liberty Park. Elsholz said she hopes to qualify all seven of her varsity players (all three singles players and both doubles teams) for state.

“To accomplish this, they just need to continue doing what they have done all season— giving their best effort and playing smart during their matches.”

Elsholz is pleased with all of her players and even pointed out improvements at the JV level. In fact, she said many JV players have been right on the heels of varsity players, challenging them for their starting spots. This has pushed everyone to get better.

While observers from the outside are likely surprised with Highland’s success, Elsholz is not. She said her talented players worked hard for 10 months leading up to the season. She also said the boys have the right mindset when they practice and play and are doing things the right way on and off the court. It makes her job so much easier and more enjoyable.

It helps to have the boys’ positive attitudes and high expectations.

“They love to compete and love to win,” she said. “They are working hard to achieve their goals and meet the expectations they have placed on themselves—that is one of the things that has made this team so good. We have spent so much time on the court together this past year that we honestly feel like a family. I love to see how they pull for and encourage each other. It is such a joy to work with them.”