AMERICAN FORK, Utah – How do you take down Goliath?
The first step is to put yourself in position to have a shot.
That’s what the American Fork boys tennis team did on the first day of the 6A state boys tennis tournament at Liberty Park on Thursday.
The Cavemen won all 10 of their first and second-round matches as their representatives made it to the semifinals in all five divisions.
That meant that for the first time, American Fork kept up with the titan of the sport: Region 4 rival Lone Peak.
“It’s monumental,” American Fork head coach Jason Herrud said. “This is what you work for as a coach. Even the teams that have taken second never had all five in the semis. This is just a step in the direction that we want to go. We want to close that gap and compete with those guys who are two miles north of us.”
The Knights — who have won every state championship in the sport in their classification since 2016 — also won all of their matches and the two teams sit atop the standings heading to the final day of action on Saturday.
“I’m proud of everybody here, even those who aren’t playing,” American Fork senior Treson Hucks said. “I’m just proud of everybody that’s here. It’s cool to have everybody advance for the first time. I guess it means everyone shows up at practice (on Friday).”
Hucks, who plays No. 2 doubles with sophomore Sam Jensen, is the only senior on the American Fork squad.
“He’s just kind of a steady presence,” Jensen said. “A lot of guys I played with are sophomores like me. He keeps me calm, while I try and keep him calm as well.”
In addition to Hucks, Herrod said that having sophomore Caden Hasler play well at No. 1 singles also has helped out the entire squad.
“We’ve never had as good of a first singles as Kaden,” Herrud said. “He brings a little bit of swagger to the team. The guys are kind of riding on that swagger and they know we can play with these guys. It’s been nice to kind of have that extra pizzazz that we’ve never really had before.”
Region 4 once again dominated the competition. 15 of the 20 total semifinalist spots were taken by athletes from that leagued (five from American Fork, five from Lone Peak, three from Corner Canyon and one each from Skyridge and Pleasant Grove).
“For me the worry was getting all five positions qualified because our region is so strong,” Herrud said. “Once we did it was like, OK, let’s just see what we have. We’re so young but knowing how good they can be you want to push them without making them feel too nervous.”
Now the Cavemen are in position to see what they can do in the semifinals and finals. It would take a few upsets for American Fork to stun the Knights, but at this point it is a possibility.
“We all know that we’ve taken sets off them before,” Jensen said. “We know we can do it.”
Hucks said: “We need to play consistently. We have to do it for two sets.”
Herrud hopes that not having any pressure will be a benefit to his young team.
“It’s a little easier being the underdog,” Herrud said. “We have never really played as the favorites in the history of American Fork tennis. I absolutely love and embrace the underdog mentality. You have nothing to lose so let’s just play our best tennis. We’re really good friends with Lone Peak, Corner Canyon and Skyridge and Pleasant Grove players, so it’s fun. Now it’s just can we play the best against the best in the state? That’s what we’re hoping.”
The semifinal and final matches of the 6A tournament will take place at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City on Saturday starting at 9 a.m.