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Midvale Journal

Huskies claim region tennis championship

Jul 03, 2023 10:20AM ● By Julie Slama

Hillcrest High senior Brian Yu teamed up with junior Briggs Hunt to play No. 1 doubles for the Huskies in region. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

Hillcrest High’s boys tennis team won nearly every match to win the 5A region 7 title.

“With this region championship, Hillcrest had a team in every single championship match; it was a team effort,” Hillcrest High head coach Tui Satuala said. “It’s also a far cry from the start of the season with three weeks of snow; we basically didn’t have practice for 20 days. We had to shovel and brush our courts off of snow to get in one day of practice before our first match.”

Fortunately, those were the Huskies’ home courts after years of the team being divided to find available courts during the reconstruction of the high school.

“Having us all together was a lot of fun; it really helped with our bonding and team chemistry,” said senior Rishi Naik, one of the team’s captains. “With having so many courts and not having to travel to them, it helped that we were done with practices earlier so we could get to our homework sooner. We also can have home matches and can host region.”

The season began with 53 players trying out to make the team; “it was the most we’ve had ever try out. We had to cut the number to 31,” Satuala said.

Two freshmen made the varsity squad, which helped to strengthen the team, he said. Crew Hutchings played second singles while Lars Dalgleish teamed up with Naik in doubles play.

“We had a lot of boys play and work out in the offseason so that helped our team,” Satuala said. “Aarav Parikh played No. 1 singles again this year and he put in a lot of work in the offseason. He had a lot more power in his serve. He played a lot of smart tennis in terms of where he was placing the ball and the pace he would put on the ball. He didn’t lose to anyone in the region during the regular season and was the region champion this year.”

At state, Parikh, who is a junior and team captain, ended up losing to another player he had previously beat in region play.

“It was a really, really close match, but with the pace and nerves—and with our team, we have a lot of AP and IB students so they were tired from those tests—it all caught up to him,” Satuala said.

Hutchings, he said, is “just the competitor who will go after every ball. He went into the region tournament as the fifth seed, and he ended up beating them all to be in the final match for the championship—and he won. He took first place for second singles as a freshman so that’s pretty cool.”

Senior Roy King placed second at region in third singles.

“He is so fun to watch; he hustles to get every point. We joke that when we play Cottonwood, he gets an injury. Last year, he separated his shoulder, but he’s still finished and won the match. This year, he sprained his ankle halfway through the match, but still stuck it out to beat his opponent. He’s just a tough competitor,” Satuala said.

King began playing tennis as a sophomore as he wanted to play another sport to go along with playing football.

“I went to the preseason workouts, and I seemed to have a natural knack for tennis,” he said. “I learned quickly. Last year, I won region. In any sport, you have to put in a ton of work to be effective, so I picked tennis to play since I really like it.”

In No. 1 doubles, senior Brian Yu teamed up with junior Briggs Hunt to take second in region.

“I was super happy for Brian because early in the season, he solidified himself as the second singles position and played there for most of the season,” Satuala said. “Toward the end of the season, Brian decided to play doubles as he thought it fit his skill set better. He really is a strong versatile player, which complements Briggs, who has some awesome serves and is energetic on the court. Brian is really strong at the net and placing shots, so they feed off each other really well.”

Satuala said that throughout the season, he was trying to get a solid second doubles pair as he rotated players trying out different combinations. Dalgleish and Naik ended up being the pair that clicked.

“When they first played, they won two matches. They played so well as partners. We left them together and they ended up winning region,” he said.  

Naik, who hopes to play on a tennis club team in college, began playing the sport in third grade, competing in local tournaments. In middle school, he took a break to play hockey. He returned to play tennis in high school.

“I loved tennis at a kid; my dad would always bring me to the park to play,” he said. “Hockey helped me with my strength and endurance. I became more confident, and I was hitting harder and more powerful after hockey. Some people look at tennis as like a wimpy sport. If it rains, you can’t play. If it’s too windy, you can’t play. But when you can play, it’s a hard sport that is both mental as well as physical.”

Naik said that the team brought in a coach to help with mental training this year.

“He’s helped us with our mindset,” he said. “If you and your partner aren’t on the same place, you won’t have the chemistry. We need to change our mental thinking and prepare for our matches.”

In addition to Parikh, the other players also fell in some close matches in the first round of state. The team of Yu and Hunt ended up forfeiting as Yu got sick and Hunt was in the spring production of “Frankenstein.”

In addition to the three varsity seniors, the team will lose senior captain Jaren Ruff, who missed the later part of the season for theater productions as well.

Satuala was impressed with the play of sophomore Rohan Khakural. As a transfer student, he played JV and “is a solid tennis player. He went undefeated in region play. He’ll be a big contributor in the tennis program for the next two years.”

“We’re going to miss our seniors; their leadership alone at practices and at tennis matches is unmatched,” Satuala said. “We’ll be in a new region next year with our biggest contender being Park City, but we have a lot of young guys so we’re excited to see what they can do.”λ