State championship teams that lose 12 seniors and a head coach almost always find themselves in rebuilding mode the next year.
Bonanza’s boys tennis team has proven itself the exception to the rule, so much so that the Bengals just might be back at state with a whole new lineup this year.
The Bengals, 9-2 overall, tied for the Southwest League title and begin play in the Sunset Region tournament Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. at Centennial (9-2).
The Sunrise Region boys tourney also starts Tuesday, with matches at the sites of the higher-ranked teams. The girls tourneys begin today at host sites. All region finals are set for Friday at Darling Tennis Center.
“We just have a lot of talented players,” said first-year Bonanza coach Brian Burkert. “We’ve all worked together, and these kids have given me everything I could have asked from them.”
The Bengals won their fifth state title in an eight-year span last season, topping Coronado, 13-5 in the final. But none of the players who had a significant role in that title match was back this season.
“It was tough to fill their shoes,” said junior Trevor Jacobsen. “Last year we were 20 kids deep. We’re still pretty deep, and we feel like we can beat any team out there.”
The Bengals rattled off seven straight wins to finish the regular season. Early-season losses to Palo Verde and Clark seem more like a distant memory.
“It’s definitely different not having all the seniors,” said junior Craig Whiting, whose brother Andrew was one of the Bengals’ top doubles players last year. “Our team is different. It took some time to get adjusted to new roles and a new coach, but we feel like we have a really good chance of winning state.”
Whiting and Jacobsen have been two of the many reasons why Bonanza has stayed in its usual spot among the elite teams in Southern Nevada.
“We still have no one particular player that stands out,” Burkert said. “Without a doubt, they have a hard time shining just on their own, but when you put them all together, we have a really good team. At the start of the year, you could see some of the players were looking around for someone to come in and be the person who takes control.”
The Bengals also got a little lucky this year. New to the team is junior Yang Yang, who moved from China to live with a family member.
Burkert said Yang was “one of the top 20 players in China,” and has made an impact in singles play.
Still, the Sunset Region is loaded with talent. Any of six teams has a legitimate shot to win the region title and move on to the state semifinals.
“We just have to focus on playing well,” Burkert said. “These kids can play with anyone. They’re starting to get into that mindset.”
Other boys quarterfinal matches in the Sunset Region on Tuesday are: Cimarron-Memorial (8-4) at Bishop Gorman (10-2); The Meadows (7-2) at Clark (8-3); and Durango (8-5) at Palo Verde (11-0).
In the Sunrise Region, Tuesday’s boys quarterfinals are: Chaparral (5-4-1) at Coronado (10-0); Liberty (11-2) at Las Vegas (8-4); Rancho (7-3-1) at Foothill (10-2); and Green Valley (8-3) at Eldorado (10-4).
In today’s Sunset girls quarterfinals, it’s: Shadow Ridge (7-4) at Bishop Gorman (12-0); Clark (9-2) at Palo Verde (9-2); Spring Valley (8-3) at The Meadows (9-0); and Centennial (6-5) vs. Durango (10-3) at Sierra Vista.
In the Sunrise Region, today’s girls quarterfinals are: Eldorado (7-7) at Liberty (13-0); Silverado (9-2) at Las Vegas (8-4); Valley (7-4) at Coronado (9-1); and Green Valley (8-3) at Canyon Springs (8-4).
All girls semifinals are Wednesday at host sites. All boys semifinals are Thursday at host sites.