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Midvale Journal

Hillcrest tennis players compete at state, next season means new region, new coach

Jun 28, 2021 03:14PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

State was a sweet farewell for two Hillcrest seniors and their coach.

Senior Alex Qi, who played first singles, and senior Anthony Elbel, who played second doubles with sophomore Brian Yu, had their farewell tennis matches at the 5A state tournament.

“It’s the first time we went to state in this region,” said their coach, Robert James, who also is stepping away from coaching. “They went all out.”

Freshman Aarav Parikh also competed at state in second singles losing in the first round to the eventual state champion.

While the foursome played well, James said, none advanced.

“We play in the toughest region. Three teams we play against, were first, second, and third in state,” he said, referring to Skyline, Brighton and Olympus respectively.

In non-region, the Huskies beat Jordan, Juan Diego, Taylorsville, West Jordan, Granger, Herriman and were tied with Riverton before snowfall forced the rest of the matches to be canceled.

In region play, they beat Cottonwood 5-0, pulled out a close one, 3-2, to Murray and came up short 2-3 against East. They also lost to Highland, Brighton, Skyline and Olympus.

“From the beginning to the end, we played very well. The newcomers improved and came along. Eight members of the team graduated, and five seniors lettered. We are losing five of our seven varsity players so Brian and Aarav will need to step up to lead the team,” he said.

After eight years, James is stepping down as both boys’ and girls’ head tennis coach because of Hillcrest’s assignment in the new aligned region. With travel to play almost every match an hour to three or more hours, he said his health couldn’t take the long bus rides.  

“I’ll let the new coaches handle the long bus trips to these teams that are more on our level. My back can handle only so much. We won’t have home courts for another year (because of construction at the school) so every match is away, and this coming year, it really will be extended travel,” James said.

But, he isn’t stepping away from the sport he loves. 

James, who started hitting tennis balls against a wall for hours every day starting at age eight or nine, went to state all three years of his high school career—twice with Skyline High and one year with Mountain Crest High. 

While he has never played on grass, he played on a clay court in Argentina, saying the play was “slow, dusty and slippery.” Once back in the states, he regularly watched the U.S. Open having appreciated the greats such as Jimmy Conner, Chris Evert, Björn Borg and Martina Navratilova.

“I’ll hit balls once in a while,” James said. “Tennis is a lifelong sport. I hope my players will continue to play.”