Alta senior Mariah Petersen picked up a key upset win early on in the state 5A tennis tournament to help propel her into the second day of the playoffs, held Oct. 8 and 11 at Liberty Park.
Petersen’s second round, 6-2, 6-1 victory over Region 2’s top- ranked Ashley Hekking from Cottonwood boosted Alta’s No. 1 singles player into the semifinals.
“It was an exciting game to watch,” Alta coach Janine Petersen said. “Hekking only lost one match this season, but Petersen was playing at her best and handled the No. 1 seed quite well.”
Petersen came into the tournament as the No. 2 two seed from Region 3, after losing out to Bingham’s Jean Noh in the region finals. Petersen picked up a first-round, 6-1, 6-0 match over Fremont’s Bethany Minnoch before beating Hekking. She lost out to eventual runner-up Leah Heimuli, Lone Peak, in the semifinals.
Alta qualified its entire team for the state tournament, but only Petersen made it to the final day.
The only other player to emerge from the opening round was NO. 3 singles player Kat Hickey. Playing in her first varsity season, Hickey, a sophomore, amassed a 10-3 record and qualified for state with a third-round region finish. She took her first match with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Hillcrest’s Lauren VanRoosendaal. She lost to Davis’ Eliza Hafen in the second round, 6-0, 6-0.
Alta moved former No. 2 doubles player Hailee Horton to the No. 2 singles this season. The junior finished second at regions before losing in the first round at state.
“She improved a lot this year,” Petersen said of Horton. “She will be one our team leaders next season.”
Senior Maddy Zundel teamed up with junior Lauren Ogden to finish third at regions to earn a state playoff berth. The duo took the opening match with Layton’s Megan Benson and Breanna Taylor to three games before losing out. The first two sets went past the normal six-game set, with Layton winning the first, 7-5 and Alta taking the second with the same score. Layton took the win with a 6-1 final set.
“That match could have gone either way,” Petersen said. “I think we just ran out of gas and couldn’t finish.”
Alta’s No. 2 doubles team of Ali Pferdner and Nina Hagen found themselves facing the eventual champions in the first round. Lone Peak’s duo of Olivia Harkness and JJ Bitton beat the Alta duo 6-1, 6-3 and cruised on through the final rounds for the state title.
“We were in a tough region with Brighton and Bingham, so some of our players ended up with lower seeds in the first rounds than we are used to having,” Petersen said. “That meant they had to face a lot of higher-seeded players right off the bat.”