Salpointe's Matt Dunn finished third at the 5A-I state championships last season. Despite his success in 2010, the junior says he's "not expecting to bring home a title" this year. JILL TORRANCE / ARIZONA DAILY STAR

An extended run at the state championships last season was an "interesting" experience for Salpointe Catholic's Matt Dunn.

Then a sophomore, Dunn lost to the eventual state champion and placed third in the 5A-I state tourney.

Dunn said the experience gave him a powerful tool to build on.

"It was a good confidence booster and a good way to end the season," he said.

But the 16-year-old said he doesn't expect to win a state title this season.

"I think I can do well, but I'm not expecting to bring home a title," Dunn said.

Salpointe coach John Condes begs to differ.

"I've never seen him satisfied with where he's at," Condes said, "so he's going to get better."

Dunn added weight and strength in the off-season while training at some local Tucson camps. He also worked on his serve and his forehand.

Here are three parts of Dunn's game that could help him make a return to the state championships this season.

His intense serve. At an estimated 120 mph, Dunn can start a game with a serve that nears the speed of professional tennis players.

"Last year around this time, I was clocked at about 115, and that was 2 inches, 20 pounds ago," he said. "I'd like to think it's a little faster now."

He said he worked over the summer training at the Smith-Perry Tennis Academy to try to reach the professional speeds.

As a testament to just how difficult it is to return Dunn's serve, his 15-year-old brother, Andrew, said he brags when he is able to return it.

His mental game. Dunn said it was "frustrating" to play from behind at the state tourney last year.

Last weekend when the Lancers traveled to a tourney in El Paso, Dunn had to rally in the last few games of his singles match before eventually winning. But his mental toughness has improved.

"Catching up, I hate every second of it. But you've got to do what you've got to do," Dunn said.

His imposing stature. At 6 feet 3 inches, Dunn has a 76-inch wingspan.

His frame sets him apart because it allows him to get to the ball quicker and have more power in all aspects of his game.

"He's got the game. His forehand, his second serve is really, really good," Condes said.

And Dunn said he's still trying to exploit his size advantage. "I'm at 165 (pounds) right now trying to get to 185 by next year. … So I'm just trying to stay healthy."

Watch list

• Carlos Bermudez, Sr., Palo Verde

• Michael Choffin, Jr., Marana

• Andrew Dunn, So., Salpointe Catholic

• Matt Dunn, Jr., Salpointe Catholic

• Neeko Gardner, Sr., Rincon/University

• Wade Heerboth, Sr., Catalina Foothills

• Jason Keatseangsilp, Jr., Catalina Foothills

• Alec Petford, Jr., Ironwood Ridge

• Tavo Ruffo, Sr., Sierra Vista Buena

• Josh Taylor, Sr., Ironwood Ridge

Note: Athletes chosen by Star staff in consultation with area coaches.