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Midvale Journal

Hillcrest tennis student-athletes have game, ready to match up in region play

Aug 18, 2021 01:44PM ● By Julie Slama

Senior co-captain Erin Zhang, seen here in August 2020, is expected to lead the Hillcrest girls tennis team along with senior co-captain Shay Minoughan and juniors Sownya Paritala and Lili Greenwood. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Corner, corner, down the line. 

Hillcrest High girls tennis team may be well acquainted with those words as the players are gearing up for a new region under a new head coach.

Creighton Chun is a familiar face having first been an assistant tennis coach eight years ago and returning the past couple seasons. Now, he has stepped into the head position.

“You practice how you play and you play like you practice,” is what he says. “You hit it hard and try to put away the point.”

Chun has worked with players when they reached out to him earlier this summer before tryouts, he is expecting his team to be led by juniors Sownya Paritala and Lili Greenwood along with senior captains Erin Zhang and Shay Minoughan. 

This they will try to do without the Huskies having any school tennis courts as the school campus is under construction and plans don’t call for the completion of the eight courts until fall 2022. 

The past couple seasons, they have used Mountain View Park’s and Antzak Park’s courts to practice, and this season, they’ve expanded to include Southwood Park. This means, the team divides up, so they all get court time, with Chun at one site and his assistant coach and brother, Chris, at another. His other assistant, Gary Daniels, oversees the administrative part of the team.

“Tennis is a sport you want to play every day,” Chun said, expressing gratitude to both Cottonwood Heights and Murray City parks and recreation departments for letting them schedule times to practice.

Their home matches have been nonexistent for the past few seasons; this year, nearby Cottonwood High is graciously allowing them to host a couple “home” matches against Cedar Valley and Stansbury when the Colts are on the road, he said.  

Cottonwood is the only school nearby as the Huskies’ new region stretches west to Tooele and Stansbury high schools, southwest to Cedar Valley High in Eagle Mountain, south to Payson High, and east to Uintah High in Vernal, which is more than three hours away.

“I feel confident our girls can compete with this new region,” he said, noting that Cedar Valley, Payson and Cottonwood didn’t have players qualify for state last year although he expects strong play from Cottonwood’s No. 1 singles player.  

Chun said that Stansbury and Uintah both had a number of their state players graduate and Tooele had one as well so they will have some returning talent, but also scouting for new athletes to fill those vacant roles.

Hillcrest, which finished seventh with one win in their highly competitive region last year, had three seniors graduate. However, this year’s team may have a new makeup as well, Chun said before the early August tryouts.

Combined with interest from incoming freshman who may be part of the team, one varsity player who previously was on the team isn’t expected to return. He’s not sure if it’s because of the time involved in the travel, especially as many of the players are amongst the school’s top scholars in the International Baccalaureate Program, or if it may be because of other activities, such as the commitment to the school’s award-winning performing arts program.

“Every single match, except for Cottonwood, they’re going to miss their fourth or eighth period for travel and when we travel to Vernal (on a Tuesday this fall), we’re going to be gone all day. That’s a lot to miss,” he said.

While Chun navigates through the new region and finding courts to practice, another new aspect to the season is having not only the top two singles or top two teams, but a third division as well, which would bring up the top JV players. 

Chun isn’t new to the sport. 

He began playing tennis at the age of five in Salem, Oregon and teamed up to play doubles in the sectionals in the 10 and under age group. His interest expanded to other sports, and he played on the All-Star Little League team. 

At Roy (Utah) High School, Chun played football, baseball and wrestled as well as competed at state in tennis.

“I could have run track too, but it was too much,” he said, although he also participated in martial arts.

Chun took a break from sports as he studied economics and Chinese at the University of Utah and worked as a mortgage broker. Then, he began getting back into it as he helped coach his nephew and the team in youth football.

“During peewee, our teams always were champions, undefeated champions,” he said. “We beat the Brightons, we beat the Easts, we beat the Binghams.”

Later, he became an assistant coach for some of those same boys on Hillcrest’s football team for two years in between two years of being an assistant tennis coach for his niece and her team.

Before COVID-19, Chun worked at his dad’s engineering firm, was a long-term substitute teacher at Hillcrest and along with his brother, Chris, was the girls and boys tennis assistant under Robert James. James stepped down from coaching because of health reasons associated with the travel in the new region.

“Once I heard we were going in the new region, I was going to tell Robert I was going to help them during the year, but I’m not going to go travel to those places—but then he decided he wasn’t going to,” Chun said.

He kept firm he wouldn’t apply for the head position, despite being asked to.  

“Finally, Greg (Leavitt, the school principal) said, ‘It’s your job if you want it.’ The girls were begging me and asked me, ‘Will you please coach?’” Chun said. “I asked my brother; I needed him to be my assistant. I said, ‘I’m only going to do this if you’re willing to you coach too.’”

His brother replied: “‘Let’s do it.’”