With a positive mindset and a young team, Bingham girls tennis still sent seven players to stateNov 03, 2022 07:43PM ● By Brian Shaw
By Brian Shaw | [email protected]
According to Bingham girls tennis coach Mark Smith, that was the motto that the Bingham girls tennis team made a decision to live by this year after several key members graduated.
“Our girls were motivated because the varsity spots were all wide open,” said Smith. “Everyone had a chance to win those positions so the girls worked hard to try to do so. Our slogan: ‘Stay positive.’”
The Miners lost Katelyn Oniki, their longtime team captain, spirit animal and peer leader who was filled with such ebullience that if you met her once, you felt you would have known her for a thousand years. They lost several other seniors to graduation as well, and so for the first time in a long time, the Miners girls tennis team was beginning at square one.
The first thing the Miners decided as a team was that they had to perhaps set their sights a little lower. Last year it was region title or bust; this year was be a little bit better than you were yesterday, added the longtime Bingham girls tennis coach.
“Our theme for the year was to not worry so much about the outcome of each match but to just try to improve every day,” Smith said. “As a school, we had won region the three previous years in a row, so we talked a lot about not having the pressure and expectations to repeat again.
“‘This is this team’s season, not the previous girls season. Go out and create your own identity and be the best that you can!’ They absolutely did this, and I couldn’t have asked for anything more from them.”
With all seven varsity spots up for grabs, that gave everyone on the JV and varsity teams an opportunity to battle for those coveted 10-12 spots, said Smith.
The competition was so open to all that there were three members from the JV team who surprised the Bingham coach by making it up to the varsity team.
For sophomore Londyn Robins and juniors Chelsea Hansen and Madi Mabey, it was through hard work that each of the three put in during the summer leading up to the beginning of the 2022 season that earned them a spot on the Miners varsity team.
“They attended lessons with local clubs and played USTA tournaments and had lots of court time,” explained Smith. “Londyn plays a lot with her dad and sister and took lessons from Marc Dang of Cottonwood Country Club. Chelsea took lessons at Salt Lake Tennis and put in a lot of court time.”
For Madi Mabey, though, there may have been extra incentive. You see, she grew up watching an older sibling play for Bingham, and so she developed more of an understanding about the legacy and tradition of excellence that Bingham Girls Tennis tries to uphold, year after year, on and off the court. [More about that in our December issue.]
Mabey has waited a long time for her opportunity here at Bingham. She actually started the year as an alternate varsity player, and then got her chance to shine on varsity. Mabey was ready for this moment: she took lessons at Liberty Hills Tennis over the summer, said Smith.
Together with the returning players the Miners had, they were able to send all seven back to the 6A state tournament in doubles and singles, thanks in part to the teamwork and camaraderie developed on and off the court, added the Bingham head coach.
“I am so happy that the girls played so well,” Smith said. “They worked hard all season to improve and won some key matches at the end of region play [to qualify].”
Surprises At State
This year, every single team on this young Miners’ squad, be it doubles or singles, made it past the first round of the 6A state tournament. In first singles, sophomore Emaline Roberts was the No. 10 seed; she beat a No. 23 opponent from Kearns to advance. In second singles, No. 12-seeded Megan Burton defeated an opponent from Roy to move on to the round of 16 as well.
It was at the round of 16 where both players unfortunately met their match, said Smith.
“At first singles Emaline played a very strong player from Herriman. She played well and battled, but the Herriman player was too strong and consistent. She lost 1-6, 3-6,” said the Bingham head coach. “Junior Megan Burton at second singles played very well with the first set going back and forth against Brighton Johnson of Farmington. The Farmington girl found her serve and was able to win enough points on Megan’s serve to win the match at 3-6, 1-6.”
In Smith’s estimation, it was actually a newcomer in Mabey teamed with a varsity veteran in Katie Smith who made a lasting impression at this year’s state tournament. Pitted against a good West Jordan doubles team on their home court in the first round, the junior duo of Smith and Mabey went on to the round of 16 and played the best match of the five positions, he added.
“They really played good tennis. They were consistent, aggressive and powerful,” said Smith. “They had two match points at 5-3 in the third set to win it that they couldn’t quite convert and ended up losing the match at 7-5(3), 2-6, 5-7. I was very proud at how they approached the match with confidence and didn’t let the emotions of playing at state keep them from playing the best tennis of the year.”
Smith added that Rylee Yeates, the only senior on the team, was faced with a tough task in her round of 16 match, losing it 0-6, 0-6. Yeates had a nice win in the first round against an opponent from Taylorsville to close out her career at Bingham.
In second doubles, the team of junior Chelsea Hansen and sophomore Londyn Robins, a team made up of players who were on the JV squad before being called up to play on varsity, won their first-round match as a No. 15 seed over a team from Copper Hills, and then held their own against Lone Peak in the round of 16, even scoring a point against the eventual 6A state finalists.
In Smith’s eyes, the Miners accomplished what they set out to do, and then achieved even more than that in 2022.
“Our goal was to get better each day and to play to the best of our ability. They accomplished this for sure. Next year our team should be a little stronger as they have all gained valuable experience and only losing one varsity player,” said the Bingham head coach. “They all improved and grew so much by the end of the season. They learned to play with confidence and though young and somewhat inexperienced, they really played to their potential.”