Alta High School athletics fall season previewAug 17, 2018 02:53PM ● By Jana Klopsch
Alta Senior Emilee Astle has three state singles titles under her belt and hopes to add a fourth this season. (Ron Bevan/City Journals)
By Ron Bevan | [email protected]
The fall sports season has been one in which the Alta Hawks have been feared. At one time the boys football team won back-to-back state championships. And the girls soccer team once put a string of four straight state titles together.
But it has been nearly a decade since the Hawks were in the gridiron championships. Meanwhile, there are eight banners hanging over the field for the girls soccer team, but none have been hoisted since 2011.
Could this be the year for them or any of the fall sports at Alta? Here is a preview of most fall sports. Missing are the boys golf team and the cross-country teams, unavailable by press deadline.
Though eight athletes from last year’s team are gone due to graduation, perhaps the most notable missing person isn’t even a player. Lee Mitchell, Alta’s only soccer coach ever, has retired and turned the reins of the vaunted program over to one of his assistants, Mackenzie Hyer,
But Hyer isn’t a stranger to the program, being not only an assistant under Mitchell for 17 seasons, but she was there as a player when the girls program first began at Alta.
Hyer doesn’t plan on the team missing a step from previous programs that gave Alta eight state titles in girls soccer.
“We have 10 experienced players in our senior class this year,” Hyer said. “We also have a lot of depth in the juniors and sophomores that will be able to step up.”
The Hawks are even looking to a freshman to fill one of the toughest positions. Reagan Reynolds has been tabbed to be the varsity goalkeeper this season.
“She is tall and has great hands,” Hyer said of Reynolds. “We are asking big things from a freshman to jump into the goal in a varsity game, but she is up to the challenge.”
Although considered one of the best programs in the state, it won’t be an easy road this season for Alta. Region 7 includes great soccer programs in Brighton, Corner Canyon, Timpview and Jordan.
“If you have a bad day, you could be in trouble,” Hyer said. “Everyone is fighting to make the state playoffs and no game is going to be easy.”
This is the fourth year the Hawks have been under the direction of coach Alema Te’o, which means his senior class has been under his style of football their entire high school career. It is a group he has high expectations for this season.
“This is a good group of seniors,” Te’o said. “They have been very successful through the age groups, from freshman ball to sophomore and junior varsity.”
Of that freshman class Te’o began with, 27 players are still on the roster for their fourth and final year. Te’o is hoping the success those athletes have had along the way continues this season, but he knows there are a lot of good schools Alta will be up against in just region play.
“Corner Canyon will be in the thick of it this year,” Te’o said. “Their program has become quite solid. Timpview is always good, as is Jordan. But we should be mixing it up well with all of them.”
Senior Indy Hansen has taken over the offensive reins for the Hawks. Hansen played mostly as a wide receiver last season but was also the backup quarterback when needed.
“Hansen is a really good athlete,” Te’o said. “He is fast and has a strong arm. I am excited to see him emerge as one of the best quarterbacks in the state.”
If experience has anything to do with high school sports, and it does, this could end up being a good season for the Alta girls tennis team. The Hawks lost only two players to graduation from last year’s squad, and only one of them saw varsity action. That leaves six returning players with a lot of experience at the varsity level.
One of the returnees is quite possibly the most decorated athlete to ever walk the halls of Alta. Emilee Astle returns for her final season as a Hawk before moving on to play for BYU next year. Astle has dominated the tennis season since she was a freshman, winning three straight state No. 1 singles championships. Whether she goes out with a perfect four is a story that must wait until October.
Joining Astle as returning state qualifiers are seniors Sophie Emery, Kate Winegar and Savannah Beck, and juniors Brinley Horton and Sarah Ovard.
Alta’s netters are in a bit of a transition this year. The Hawks finished second in region play last year, but lost most of the team to graduation.
“We graduated seven seniors, so there are a lot of holes to fill in there,” Alta coach Mike Gonsauge said. “We also graduated all of our veteran setters, the ones that have been leading the offensive attack for the last few years. That will be the key position we need to fill.”
Even with all the new faces to grace this season, Alta has some experienced powerhouses coming back. Sunny Brown, a junior, returns as a captain.
“Probably our most all-around player,” Gonsauge said. “She is going to be a good one for us.”
“There is a good corp of players that have played together since last year that the team will be built around,” Gonsauge said.
The Hawks will look to underclassmen to play a bigger role this season due to the talent in the younger players.
“There is a lot of height in the freshman and sophomore classes, so they will be asked to step up this season,” Gonsauge said. “It will help us not only now but in the future.”