State tennis was held Thursday through Saturday in Gillette on courts in four different locations, with all of Wyoming’s 17 tennis programs in the mix.
PHS head coach Joe Asay said that one of the highlights was that every member of his squad advanced to Friday’s competition — each winning at least one match.
It was the Panthers’ third straight year taking fifth place. The team earned 23 points — only one point behind Cheyenne Central. Laramie won the tourney with 45 points.
No. 2 Doubles
The No. 2 doubles team of Preator and Aiden Jacobsen entered the tournament as the North Region’s fifth seed before battling to a runner-up finish.
The sophomores won their first game against opponents from Cheyenne East, rallying to win 5-7, 6-4, 6-2. Preator and Jacobsen had a similar second match against Jackson, coming back to win 4-6, 7-6(7-5), 6-3.
In Friday’s semi-finals, Preator and Aiden Jacobsen bested a duo from Thunder Basin 6-3, 7-4.
In Saturday’s championship match, Preator and Aidan Jacobsen won the first set 6-4 but fell to the Laramie team 6-2 in the next two sets for second place.
“It was pretty cool, especially as a sophomore, to actually come out and place as high as we did,” Jacobsen said.
“I just think it’s kind of cool how we came in as a fifth seed and we weren’t really expected to get anywhere,” added Preator. “And we came up as second state champions.”
No. 2 Singles
Senior Rhett Pimentel capped off his Panthers career with a fourth place finish at No. 2 singles.
On Thursday, Pimentel beat Jacob Pacheco of Rawlins 6-1, 6-1, and took down Clay Peterson of Torrington, 6-7(1-7), 6-4, 6-1, to advance to the semi-finals.
Pimentel then lost to Patrick Marchal of Green River (6-2, 6-3) on Friday, which placed him into the consolation bracket. He beat Ryan Stampfli of Cheyenne Central 6-3, 7-5 to advance to the third place match on Saturday. There, he lost to Sheridan’s Ethan Kutz 6-1, 6-0.
Coach Asay described Pimentel, who had only one regular season loss, as a “good scrappy player” and said he “really represented Powell tennis well.”
“It’s been a good experience,” Pimentel said. “All the kids are good people to be around and we’ve had a couple awesome coaches to help us along the way and just been a positive influence on us in tennis and outside of that.”
No. 1 Singles
Sophomore Jesse Brown competed in the No. 1 singles position, finishing 2-2 at the state tournament.
Brown won the No. 2 singles state title last year as a freshman and coach Asay that the No. 1 singles position is a “different speed.” Brown played better tennis as the tournament went on, Asay said.
No. 1 Doubles
At No. 1 doubles, seniors James Sheets and Aaron Jacobsen went into the state tournament undefeated with a perfect 8-0 record.
They won the first two games on Thursday — beating opponents from Rock Springs (6-2, 6-3) and Torrington (6-4, 4-6, 6-3) — but then lost to teams from Jackson (6-3, 6-3) and Cheyenne Central, 7-5, 7-6(7-5).
“Not the finish they were looking for, but you know you can’t be too disappointed with the way they played. They were right up there close to the end of things,” said coach Asay.
“We didn’t quite get the finish we wanted, but it’s been worth the four ... years of work,” Sheets said of his “fun” high school tennis career.
Aaron Jacobsen, who also played tennis all four years, said his career had “lots and lots of ups and downs but it’s been fun.”
No. 3 Doubles
Seniors Wade Musso and Nathaniel Whitham competed at No. 3 doubles and went 3-2.
Whitham, who started playing last year after two years of football, said “it’s been kind of wild.”
“I ended up starting out at second doubles [last year], so it’s been quite the experience going from never playing before to playing varsity,” he said.
“It’s been a blast and you just get really close to friends and you bond with team members,” added Musso, who played tennis all four years. “It’s just a fun game to play; it’s a fun sport.”
As a team, the Lady Panthers finished 11th.
Senior Hattie Pimentel opened her tournament by beating Kryslin Poppie of Rawlins 6-1, 6-3 but then lost to the eventual state champion Grace Dereemer from Cheyenne Central 6-1, 6-0. Pimentel rebounded to beat Emi Glass of Torrington 6-1, 6-0 then lost to Cody’s Tessa Blough, 6-3, 6-3.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Hattie Pimentel of her career. “Practicing always makes you better.”
Coach Asay said that it wasn’t uncommon to see Hattie Pimentel playing tennis on her lunch breaks and competing in tournaments during the summer.
No. 2 Singles
Senior Lauren Asher went 1-2 at the state tournament.
Coach Asay said that both Asher and Hattie Pimentel were players that “worked hard,” and were “real positive.”
Asher, who has been playing since seventh grade, said “tennis is the most fun and relaxed and easy-going sport, best sport to play with your friends and really fun.”
Sierra Sanders and Shayla Shoopman played in the No. 1 doubles position and went 1-2; at No. 2 doubles, Sloane Asay and Heidi Barrus also posted a 1-2 record.
Hailee Paul and Ashley Dunkerley went 2-2 in the No. 3 doubles position.
Coach Asay said this varsity group was a “truly a good bunch [who] worked hard.”
“Senior class practiced a lot because they were having fun,” he said, saying it was normal to see a couple seniors playing tennis over lunch.
In all, the PHS tennis team will be losing six seniors — five boys and one girl.
Going forward, coach Asay said he hopes for continued tournament success, but also stressed that the “biggest sell is that tennis is fun.”
“Tennis is a fun game,” he said.