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Valley Journals

Stacked Titans could be a force in 5A boys tennis

Apr 09, 2018 11:33AM ● By Josh McFadden

Olympus’ Sawyer Peterson serves a ball at practice. The Titans feature a deep, skilled team. (Photo/Mike Epperson)

In any sport, depth and talent is a potent combination. The Olympus boys tennis team has both as it begins the 2018 season.

Head coach Mike Epperson guides a team of 20 players, many of whom have game experience at the high school level. In fact, he said this might be one of the top squads in the past handful of seasons. 

“We have a lot coming back that played last year,” Epperson said. “We should be very competitive. We have the best team we’ve had in the last five or six years. I expect everyone (on the varsity team) to make state.”

Olympus’ varsity singles players are all seniors, and Epperson is excited about what is can do on the court. No. 1 singles player, Drew Hartsfield, is a three-year starter. He’s also a Sterling Scholar. The No. 2 singles competitor is Parker Warner, and Cole Marshall will fill the No. 3 singles spot. Marshall also has three years experience as a singles player.

“(Warner) is a great kid,” Epperson said. “He’s improved a ton. I expect a lot out of him. (Marshall) should compete for state.”

At the No. 1 doubles spot, senior Robbie Ballam, a transfer from Logan High School, will team up with Ellis Ivory, a freshman “up-and-comer,” as Epperson describes him. The third-year coach hadn’t quite set the No. 2 doubles team at the beginning of the season. Sophomore Ethan Stanger was the probable starter, with different contenders vying to be his partner. 

Epperson is excited about his athletic team, but he also loves some of the intangibles the players bring to the table. 

“They’re motivated and driven,” he said. “They’re smart — many have a 3.7 to 3.8 GPA. They’re generally smart on the court. They’re not overly emotional. They’re grounded and know how to overcome obstacles. They stay focused on the task at hand.”

Epperson expects his squad to perform well throughout region play and into the state tournament. He has more than 10 players who play club ball throughout the season and who have gained valuable experience against top competition. His only concern is making sure his team worries about the next game and doesn’t look too far down the road. 

“The kids can’t get ahead of themselves,” he said. “We have to take each match as it comes and stay focused. We have to improve each match.”

Epperson has coached other sports, such as football, so he knows the importance of staying in shape and being physically prepared for long matches. In preparation for the season, he worked hard on conditioning. For his players, practice doesn’t include a lot of standing around. Instead, the team members run from drill to drill and put forth a lot of effort. 

“The kids know what’s expected of them,” he said.

The Class 5A state tournament is slated for May 18–19 at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City.