The team had high hopes after strong performances from several of Grand’s top players during the region competition on Sept. 21. However, last weekend, all the Lady Devil players except senior Torrie Lopez were defeated in the first round of the state tournament.
Ranked first in the southern Utah region, with a 10-0 undefeated season record, senior Brianna Ballard competed in the No. 1 singles division. She played Melanie Mitsvotai, from Manti, who was ranked fourth in the more populous northern region with a record of 4-2. Ballard lost to Mitsvotai, 6-2, in each set.
Lopez filled the No. 2 singles slot for the Lady Devils. She was ranked third in the southern region with a record of 8-2. During her first match at state, Lopez defeated Grace Peterson, a junior from WateRford who was ranked second in the northern region. Lopez swept Peterson in two sets, 7-3, 6-0, to advance to the second round.
In round two play, Lopez was pitted against Janell Starr, a Richfield senior who was ranked first in southern Utah with a season record of 9-1. Lopez lost the match in two sets, 6-3, 6-4, and was eliminated from competition.
Freshman Kayla Weston, who was ranked third in the southern region, played No. 3 singles for Grand. Weston’s first and only state match was played against the second-ranked northern player, Erika Park, from Waterford, who had a season record of 5-1. The more senior Park swept Weston in two sets, 6-1, 6-3.
Grand’s doubles players also struggled during the tournament. Ranked second in the region, junior Jacey Johnson and freshman Brityn Ballard competed in the No. 1 doubles division. They played a two-senior team from St. Joseph Catholic High School that was ranked third in the northern region. The more experienced St. Joseph team defeated Grand in two sets 6-2, 6-2.
At No. 2 doubles, junior Madison Stocks and sophomore Robin Wilscheidt went into the state competition ranked third in the southern region with a season record of 6-3. Their opponents from St. Joseph were ranked second in the northern region and handily shut down the Lady Devils in two sets, 6-0, 6-0.
Grand’s losses early in the tournament prevented the Lady Devils from placing at state as a team, and none of the players placed individually.
“We did not do so well,” said head coach Brian Ballard, “We didn’t get any of our players except for Torrie through the first round.”
Ballard said that the girls played “exceptionally well,” despite the losses.
“Torrie didn’t make it through the second round, but she had a great match, just a great match. Our other players too, they did so well. They played so tough – some of them even got into tiebreakers – but they just didn’t quite break through...,” he said. “Really, it was quite an emotional experience for most of them, putting out all that effort and being there and losing. It was really tough, and they were playing against some really good schools, and so it’s really tough to take those losses.”
Ballard says that, regardless of the state placing, he is proud of the team’s accomplishments this season, and has high hopes for next year.
“We’ve had a great year: the girls have just played so, so well. They’ve really put their hearts into it. They’ve put out a lot of effort, and played against some really good schools,” he said. “We’ll be losing some seniors to graduation, but I’m looking forward to next year. Like I’ve always said, we’ve got a lot of talent on this team, on the JV and the underclassmen players, and so they’ve put their hearts into it this year and I’m really excited for next year.”