Rams cap successful boys tennis campaign with second place in region
Jun 05, 2019 16h16
By Josh McFadden
Abram Toronto returns the ball during action in the Region 6 boys tennis tournament May 10. (Photo courtesy Jeanine Elsholz)
By Josh McFadden | [email protected]
Winning Region 6 was going to be a tall order for the Highland boys tennis team, but the squad wasn’t far behind, placing second at the region tournament May 10.
The Rams edged out Olympus for the runner-up spot, trailing only state power Skyline. Highland and Olympus were neck and neck throughout the tournament, and the two teams were tied entering the final match of the day. It was then that Jake Bauman won a three-set outing against his opponent from East. This gave Highland the point it needed to move past the Titans.
Head coach Jeanine Elsholz was excited for the last victory and for her team’s efforts to come in second behind a powerful Skyline team. In the process, all five positions will have Highland representation, all with at least a No. 3 seed.
“We didn't expect to beat Skyline but hoped to stay ahead of the other teams in our region,” she said. “To finish ahead of Olympus was a big milestone for Highland; that has not happened for many years. Our team goal was to finish top two at region and top five at state. It felt so good to meet that goal. We qualified our entire team for state this year, and we don't have any players going in as the No. 4 seed this year; this is also a first in many years.”
During the regular season, Highland’s only loss came to Skyline. The Rams also won the St. George tournament earlier in the season. It’s been a huge climb for a program that previously spent years at the bottom of the standings. In fact, just two years ago, the Rams didn’t win a single match as a team.
“It felt really good to finish so high and to be one of the top teams in the region,” Elsholz said.
Elsholz knew the state tournament would offer an even higher level of challenges than region. She said Class 5A boasts the most talent in the state, even more so than the 6A classification. Her team drew a tough matchup at state, and she may also be missing some players who’ll be taking AP tests the day of the tournament. Still, Elsholz knows her squad will be focused and work hard in every match at state, May 16 and 18 at Liberty Park.
“This situation is far from ideal, but we will do our best,” she said. “Having to meet the top players in the state in the first round will be tough, but I fully expect our boys to give their best effort.”
As the season draws to a close, Elsholz is grateful to have coached this group of boys. She also speaks highly of their attitudes and commitment to the team, to themselves and to each other. She said the remarkable turnaround from zero wins to region runners-up began two years ago after that winless season. Players such as Will Olsen, Abram Toronto, Bauman and Isaac Brickey put in up to six hours a day improving their skills and setting the pace for the rest of the squad.
“This group will be a team I will never forget,” she said. “What they have done to turn the program around at Highland High School has been amazing. To go from consistently being at the bottom of the region, to a team competing at the top, in two short years, is remarkable. These boys decided they wanted to get better and improve as a team, and they accomplished it.”
Two varsity players this year Toronto (who Elsholz said is “one of the most talented kids I have ever taught”) and Brickey were beginners two years ago. Their endless hours of work paid off, and they were both a big part of the Rams’ success this year. Elsholz said graduating seniors Olsen, Toronto, Will Dale, McKay Bradford, Quinn Brush, Aidan Coles-Ritchie, Jacob Jepsen and Christian Rich have all been a big part of the recent success of the team.
“The program could never have turned around without them,” Elsholz said. “The endless hours they were willing to spend on the court practicing made all the difference. The seniors who played JV this year were constantly pushing the varsity team and made the competition for varsity spots very tough throughout the season. This year's team will always hold a special place in my heart.”
Even better things could be on the horizon for Highland. On May 13, Highland’s JV team took first in Region 6. Out of seven positions, the Rams had six in the finals, winning four of them.