Utah High School Tennis Association
Ravenwood junior tennis standout Steven Karl is on a hunting trip of sorts — the hunt for three state singles titles.
He’ll have an opportunity in the coming days to accomplish the second of those titles. He’s highly favored to take home the Class AAA singles title for the second straight year at the TSSAA Spring Fling in Murfreesboro.
For players as accomplished as Karl, the No. 1-ranked player in the state and No. 88 nationally in the U.S. Tennis Association boys 18s standings, winning three high school state championships isn’t exactly out of the ordinary.
For Karl and his family, however, the hunt for three titles has a different meaning.
That’s the number of championships his older brother, Sean, claimed during his stellar three-year career at Ravenwood before going on to play collegiately at Tennessee.
Last November, Sean, who was forced to forgo his senior year at Ravenwood to begin cancer treatment, died at age 20 after a two-year fight against Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer that often occurs in teenagers and young adults.
What was once a matter of Karl family bragging rights now holds more significance for Steven.
“I think it would mean a little more now, just to carry on the Karl legacy, ” Steven said.
“We were really close. We were the two brothers that played tennis, so we spent a lot of time together, especially when I couldn’t drive. He’d drive me and we’d go hit at the same spots. We’d do the same things. We were kind of on the same schedule.”
Mike Karl never had the skill — or the guidance — that his sons have enjoyed, but tennis has been a part of the family since Mike was 15 years old.
“Back in the day growing up, you played either football, baseball or basketball, ” said Mike, who played tennis and ran cross country at Oakland University in Rochester, Mich., which, at the time, competed in the NCAA’s Division II. “I just didn’t like baseball anymore — it was too slow for me — so I went out and started hitting tennis balls. I pretty much taught myself.
“I fell head over heels in love with it.”
He noticed rather early that his oldest child, Sean, had a similar passion for the game.
“My oldest, he and I were cut from the same mold, ” Mike said. “He was pretty much one of those kids that couldn’t do enough when it came to sports. It didn’t matter if it was baseball, tennis, hockey; Sean loved it all and loved to practice.”
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