San Juan girls tennis coach previews season

by Rhett Sifford
Sports Editor
The San Juan High School girls tennis team opened the 2022 season with a road trip to Sevier County to take on region rivals South Sevier and Richfield on August 25.
Though the Broncos didn’t get in the win column, third-year head coach Ciarra Walker said the girls played well in their first match.
All the games were a battle and many were decided by the last point. “Our girls showed some really great teamwork and endurance,” Walker said. “I’m looking forward to our future matches and watching them improve each week.”
Coach Walker fielded several questions recently posed by the San Juan Record. Here’s what she has to say about her team and the new season:
SJ Record: Tell us about the 2022 San Juan girls tennis team.
Ciarra Walker: We are still pretty young, with some never playing with each other before. I have seen some improvement in our returning players and we have a new senior transfer student who is an excellent addition to our team. All of our girls get along really well, which creates good team unity.
SJR: Do any players stand out with their growth and performance since last year?
CW: I have noticed that Shayli Bake has improved quite a lot from last season. She practiced during the offseason and was out playing regularly with her family and friends. She showed great promise last year and I believe that she’ll just continue to improve.
SJR: Are there any strong young players coming up?
CW: We gained a couple new sophomores this year – Emily Pugh and Madelyn Pugh – who have only played recreationally or not at all until this season. They show some natural skill and drive to get better over the season. I’m excited to see their improvement this season and in the following years.
SJR: Who do you expect to step up into leadership roles this season?
CW: Our three seniors, Julie McFarland, Kamora Mitchell, and Lindsay Taylor, are great examples to the younger players and show a lot of determination and drive. All three have expressed a desire to make it to the state tournament this year and I hope to be able to help them reach that goal.
SJR: What are your strengths?
CW: Everyone plays very well as singles players. They have the needed confidence to run the court on their own.
SJR: What areas will you have to work on?
CW: We’ll be working on our doubles game and learning how to work effectively as partners. Also, we’ll work to learn each others’ playing styles and how best to play together to get the best results.
SJR: How do you stack up against region and state competition this year?
CW: We have difficult competition, just like we do every year. When you’re a smaller 2A school playing against larger 3A or even private schools, the competition is fierce. I believe we’re in the middle ground of our region.
As for state competition, that’s a little more unknown. They’ve changed how state qualification is determined this year, and each player/team has to place in the top 24 of the whole 3A classification just to make it to the state play-in tournament.
From there, the top 16 go to State. I believe that any player who has the endurance and persistence to improve through such a short season has a chance to make it to the state tournament.
SJR: What do you hope to accomplish as a team this season?
CW: I hope to instill excellent foundational skills in all of my players that they can build on to get better every season. We would love to be able to send and support at least one athlete or partnership into the state play-in tournament but have the goal of getting as many of us there as possible.
The Broncos continue play this week when they host Gunnison Valley in the first home match of the year on Thursday, September 1 at 3 p.m.

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