PHS tennis teams split with Cody

Panthers bite Broncs, Fillies buck Lady Panthers

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In the first meeting of the season between the cross-county rivals, the Powell High School tennis teams split the difference against Cody. On Monday, the Panthers outlasted the Broncs 3-2 and the Lady Panthers fell to the Fillies 5-0.

“There’s that built-in rivalry that exists between Cody and Powell, whether it’s on the football field or the baseball field, basketball court, tennis court,” said PHS head coach Joe Asay. “They always play each other tough.”

On the boys’ side, Jesse Brown and Dylan Preator continued to impress at No. 1 and No. 2 singles, while the girls’ lack of experience showed against their cody counterparts.

“Those Cody girls, most all of them have had varsity experience,” Asay said. “I go down my list, and the Cody No. 1 and No. 2 girls are a lot like what I have now on the boys’ side. They start most of those matches already up 2-0 with Tessa Blough and Teagan Thompson.”

Panthers 3, Cody 2

Jesse Brown ran his season record to 5-0 Monday with a straight-set dismantling of Cody’s Mark Bullerdick 6-0, 6-0.

“The big thing I ask the kids when they come off the courts is, ‘Did you control the things that you can control,’” Asay said. “Things like first-serve percentages are critical. Are you constantly putting yourself in a tough spot to lose points because you’re always hitting a second serve? Jesse [Brown] is just a smart, smart kid, so he thinks about those things.”

Brown sees the ball well, according to Asay, putting himself in position to execute groundstrokes with precision.

“He [Brown] makes the game fun to watch,” Asay said.

At the No. 2 singles spot, Preator got off to a fast start, winning the first set with ease 6-1. The Broncs’ Cody Champlin battled back in the second, winning 7-5, before Preator closed out the match in the third 6-1.

“Dylan [Preator] has developed his game. He’s getting big and he can really smack kind of an unorthodox forehand,” Asay said. “He’s a thoughtful player, and certainly a little bit more finesse.”

Asay saw this match as the first real test for Preator on the season and was confident his player would take care of business.

“I just knew Dylan [Preator], even though he let off the gas a little in that second set, he was never at risk of losing it,” Asay said. “He just had enough maturity, enough experience, that he’d get it done.”

In No. 1 doubles, the team of Aidan Jacobsen and Grant Dillivan was also pushed to three sets by Cody’s Dillon Romero and Solomon Stewart before wining 6-1, 6-7, 6-1. The pairing of Jacobsen and Dillivan is a new one this season, and Asay has liked what he’s seen so far from the duo.

“Grant [Dillivan] is a junior, and based on the circumstances, very well could have been playing varsity the last couple of years,” Asay said. “He’s a good, strong, athletic kid. I’m kind of excited to see them continue to work together and have some success.”

Aidan Hunt and Logan Brown at No. 2 doubles weren’t as fortunate, falling to Cody’s Neil Markert and Hayden Demaranville in straight sets 6-1, 6-3.

“With Aidan Hunt and Logan Brown, you have one of those fun things about high school tennis where you have a senior and a freshman paired up,” Asay said. “Hunt is a good, solid, big kid and he’s been at the top of the JV for the last couple of years, so this is his first chance to play varsity, same as Logan Brown. We’ll see how it goes — by sheer athleticism and drive, maybe they can start to have some success there at that spot.”

At No. 3 doubles, the pairing of Jay Cox and Ethan Bartholomew fell to the Broncs’ Jackson Golden and TJ Smith 6-3, 6-2. Both Powell and Cody had extra players available for an exhibition doubles match, with Panthers Austin Chandler and Takota Hammond squaring off against Mason Baum and Luke Campbell. Powell won the first set 6-3, dropped the second set 4-6 and lost an extended tie-breaker in the third set, giving Cody the match.

Cody 5, Lady Panthers 0

Elise North struggled in the first set against Cody’s Tessa Blough, though rebounded for three wins in the second, ultimately losing 6-1, 6-3.

“Tessa Blough has a lot of tennis in her background, and is just a great athlete, so that was a tough go for Elise [North],” Asay said. “She had a bit of a slow start there at 1-6 in the first, but those three games in the second set, that was a good thing, she got out and competed.”

In the No. 2 singles spot, Sierra Sanders came into Monday’s match against Teagan Thompson sporting a 4-0 record. Thompson, last year’s state champion at No. 2 singles, proved why she’s a favorite to repeat, taking Sanders in straight sets 6-2, 6-0.

“That was a tall order for Sierra,” Asay said.

The No. 1 doubles match saw the return of Powell’s Shayla Shoopman in her first action of the season. Paired with Sloane Asay against Cody’s Simona Wambeke and Maddy Icenogle, the team struggled to find its groove, falling in straight sets 6-0, 6-0.

“[Asay and Shoopman] played together a couple of years ago, so it was kind of fun to put them together,” coach Asay said. “Not sure how this is all going to sort out, but ultimately it was a good test against a couple of really experienced girls from Cody who are playing good tennis.”

The Lady Panthers duo of Ashley Dunkerley and Sami Cole fared a little better at the No. 2 doubles spot, losing to Cody’s Vicky Morales and Torrie Schutzman 7-5. 6-2. At the No. 3 spot, Hailee Paul and Whitney Hull lost to the Fillies’ Natty Morales and Soffy Anderson in straight sets 6-2, 6-4.

“Ashley [Dunkerley] and Sami [Cole], I like the matchup,” coach Asay said. “The biggest thing is certainly not their effort; they try hard and they work hard. It just comes down to shot selection and movement on the court, communication with one another.”

Weather was also a factor, with the wind adding another degree of difficulty for all of the players.

“We had to tell the girls, if you think you’re going to lob a kid and you’re lobbing it on the south end of the court, it’s just going to end up back in your lap,” coach Asay said. “A lot of things to consider there, definitely not ideal conditions. But both teams have to play in it, so you just adjust.”

Powell will host a couple more matches this week, welcoming in Jackson Hole High School Thursday (today) at 3 p.m. and Riverton Saturday beginning at noon.

“I think we’re moving in the right direction,” coach Asay said. “I’ll be curious to see what Jackson brings. I think that will be a test for Jesse [Brown]; not sure what they’re bringing in the No. 2 spot. They didn’t have a really strong girls team last year, so I’m not sure what they’re bringing this year. It will be interesting.”

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