“We started out pretty well,” said PHS head coach Ray Bieber. “But we like to start out pretty slow and get better in every match as the year goes along.”
There were strong starts to improve on for the Powell boys and girls.
Panther freshman Cody Akin began his PHS career with two straight-set victories at No. 2 singles. Marshall McArthur and Justin Lynn, returning from a 2011 campaign where they were state runners-up at No. 2 doubles, got off to a good start in their new No. 1 doubles position by winning both matches. The No. 3 doubles team of sophomores Kalei Smith and Sterling Cozzens also opened with a pair of wins.
A highlight for the Lady Panthers was their two singles players, BreaAnn Hollenbeck and Cydney Barrus, who each won their two matches and “played really well,” Bieber said.
Both squads have new faces: the boys return four of the eight members of their 2011 state team, while the girls return just three.
Junior Sam Prestwich played in the third doubles position last year, but won the team’s internal tournament this year to vault into the No. 1 singles position. He took Green River’s Taten Knight to three sets before falling on Friday, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3. Rock Springs’ Josh Hansen took a 6-0, 6-3 decision from Prestwich on Saturday.
Akin beat Victor Flores of Green River 6-1, 6-3 and Rock Springs’ Andy Monroe 6-4, 6-3 at No. 2 singles.
No. 1 doubles team of McArthur and Lynn beat Green River 7-6(5), 6-1, then “just had a great day” in thumping Rock Springs 6-1, 6-0, Bieber said.
Jeffrey Pool and Matt Brown (who played No. 3 doubles last year) are playing at the No. 2 doubles position. The sophomores beat Green River 6-4, 7-5 before losing 6-4, 6-2 to Rock Springs on Saturday.
“They’re still learning to play together, so that (Rock Springs) is a team they should hopefully have better luck against if they see them at state,” Bieber said.
At No. 3 doubles, Smith and Cozzens beat Green River 6-1, 5-7, 6-3 and Rock Springs 6-3, 6-4.
Hollenbeck, a senior, played No. 1 singles last year and wasted no time returning to her winning ways. She beat Green River’s Bri Randell 6-4, 6-4 and Rock Springs’ Cassie Lew, 7-5, 6-4. The win over Lew included winning five straight games in the second set to erase a 4-1 deficit, Bieber said.
Barrus took down Green River’s Shayla Strauss (3-6, 7-5, 6-3) on Friday, then beat Rock Springs’ Cassie Johnson (6-1, 6-2) on Saturday.
“She (Barrus) won two matches altogether the whole year (last season) at second doubles, so that’s a huge jump,” said a “really pleased” Bieber. He credited the sophomore’s hard work.
Junior Haley Wichman, a former PHS volleyball player, is teaming with sophomore Laura Bright at No. 1 doubles this year.
The duo won their opening match against Green River, 4-6, 6-1, 6-0. Wichman and Bright narrowly lost, 7-5, 6-4, to Rock Springs.
“We’re excited about them, it’s a very athletic team. They just need to get experience now,” said Bieber.
PHS has a pair of seniors stationed at No. 2 doubles in Savannah Harker and Marisa Sanders, who played No. 3 doubles last fall.
The pair started the season with a 7-6(4), 6-1 victory in Green River before falling 6-1, 6-1 in Rock Springs.
Rachel Anderson and Josie Brinkerhoff started their season at No. 3 doubles with a 6-0, 6-0 pounding in Green River. They were edged by Rock Springs 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 on Saturday.
Between 45 and 50 players are out for Powell High School tennis this year, “which is huge for us,” said Bieber, calling it the largest turnout in years.
“Our goal is to improve, so we want to improve every match,” Bieber said.
The PHS squads will get some good tests this week with a full slate of action in Powell.
Cody, who Bieber expects to be a tough competitor, comes to town for a 4 p.m. dual on Thursday. Jackson’s up next for a 4 p.m. match on Friday, and Riverton will round out the week’s action beginning at noon on Saturday.
“We’ll find out what we’re made of against Cody,” Bieber predicted.