Somehow, Brophy’s boys tennis team might have gotten stronger.
The Broncos already were (and have long-since been) an elite program in the state. The defending-Division I champions (a 5-1 win over Desert Mountain in the team championship match) have won three titles in the past four years and 11 team titles in coach Bill Woods’ 20 years coaching at the school.
The scary part in all this is nine of 11 kids are returning to the team this year from 2012, and that includes Kyle Chalmers, who was already en route to being a top high schooler in the state before he suffered a torn ACL during the regular season last year. He’s expected to be full strength for most of this spring
Chalmers, Hudson Blake and Zach Cihlar lead the large returning core group in 2013.
The likes of Desert Mountain (despite losing some key contributors to gradution), Chaparral, Hamilton and Corona del Sol will all be in the Division I mix, but it’ll be an arduous climb to reach Brophy’s level.
The Tucson-area schools (defending-champion Ironwood Ridge and Salpointe Catholic) will again be favorites in Division II, but the Valley can close that gap quickly. Cactus Shadows was last year’s team runner-up and the Falcons can make it there again with some good fortune after losing a significant portion of last year’s team to graduation.
Notre Dame and its returning experience (led by a top tandem in Adrian Cordova and Luke Carstens) would happily take the Falcons’ spot in the championship match, and Gilbert Christian could do the same in Division III.
Teams to Watch
Brophy: Along with the Tucson schools in Division II, the Broncos are the standard to begin the 2013 season not only as defending Div. I state champions but with nearly the entire team back for more.
Hamilton: Phil Gonzales’ squad could make another push this year with four returners, led by returning state quarterfinalist Andy Nguyen and a strong junior class.
Notre Dame: The Saints return six starters from last year’s group which went 10-2 with both losses coming against Cactus Shadows, and earned a spot in the Division II semifinals. A championship-caliber doubles team of junior Adrian Cordova and sophomore Luke Carstens along with four senior starters will have the Saints in contention again.
Red Mountain: The Lions have plenty of talent and kids with interesting backstories, but Terry Graves’ team could be a surprise in Division I with the usual cast of schools given the seniors and five returners from 2012 led by brothers Cade and Chase Lortie.
Players to Watch
Brophy: Hudson Blake, Sr.; Kyle Chalmers, Sr.; Zach Cihlar, So.; Christian Franco, So.;
Chaparral: James Ponwith, Jr.; Stefan Koester, Fr.; Jon Manning, Jr.;
Hamilton: Mac Howell, Jr.; Sam Wang, Jr.; Andy Yuwen, Jr.;
Mesa: Matthew Ledwith, Sr.
Notre Dame: Luke Carstens, Jr.; Adrian Cordova, So.;
Perry: Nic Copic, Sr.; Samuel Lin, So.; Andrew Shen, Sr.; Austin Stradling, So.;
Red Mountain: Lou Berguin, Jr.; Cade Lortie, Jr.,; Chase Lortie, So.; Dennam Wolverton, Sr.
March 1-2: East Valley Invitational tournament (at Gene Autry Sports Complex)
March 1-2: Kiwanis tournament (at Paseo Racquet Center)
April 5-6: Chandler-Hamilton Invitational (at Chandler H.S.)
April 19: State tournaments begin (singles/doubles)
April 23: State tournaments begin (team)
April 27: Championship matches at Paseo Racquet Center (singles/doubles)
May 4: Championship matches at Paseo Racquet Center (team)
•Red Mountain’s Dennam Wolverton is a standout table tennis player, plays soccer and is a model originally from Costa Rica.
•James Hepting takes over at Pinnacle. He coached tennis for 13 years in the Valley, including helping out Glendale Deer Valley to a share of the Class 5A state title in 1988. He started Pinnacle’s program in 2000 and was a state runners-up in Class 3A before he left tennis to help the football program.
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.