COMMENTARY — Last year in my duties as a magazine editor, I received a picture from ace photographer Robert Hoppie of a young tennis player named Lacey Hancock. She was plowing through all competition in Region 9 as a member of the Pine View tennis team. As a freshman, she was undefeated to that point and most of her sets were of the 6-0, 6-0 variety, meaning she wasn’t just winning, she was crushing her opponents.
This intrigued me. A 14-year-old phenom was taking the region, and as it turned out, the state by storm.
Hancock ended up sweeping through the state tournament as well, not dropping a single set the entire season. The sports writer in me kicked in after her state title. I had to know if any girl had won state all four years of high school (oh, and technically she was not in high school yet last year as ninth-graders attend middle school around here).
As it turns out, there were several girls who had. But most of them played at a lower tier when they were freshmen or sophomores. Tennis teams are divided into tiers, with the best players competing at No. 1 singles (or First Singles) the second best on a team at No. 2 singles and the third at No. 3 singles.
In fact, as I studied it out, the state record book showed that only one girl in the 38-year history of Utah prep tennis had ever won four straight No. 1 Singles titles. Her name is Ruth Ann Stevens and she played tennis for Brighton from 1984-1987.
Hancock, as it turns out, has a date with history.
From a tennis playing family (her dad Clark is a coach and the owner of the tennis club at Bloomington Country Club), Lacey looks every bit the part of a sweet, demure, feminine 15-year-old. Then she gets a tennis racket in her hand and crushes everyone she plays.
This past weekend at the 2012 state tourney Hancock cruised through the field, winning easily in the finals 6-1, 6-2 over Judge Memorial’s Whitney Weisberg. Amazingly, Hancock told reporters after her title match that she was glad she wasn’t “a one-hit wonder.”
The way she plays tennis, it seems pretty clear she is a wonder. And Utah looks like it may have only its second four-hit wonder ever.
By the way, Hancock’s Panthers tied with Snow Canyon for third place at the state tourney in the team competition. Bergen Nelson and Emily Till each took second in the No. 2 and No. 3 Singles for the Warriors.
The Hurricane Tigers still have the inside track for the Region 9 football title. If they win this week against Desert Hills (Thursday, 7 p.m.), the Tigers will have clinched at least tie for the region title in their fifth straight season.
But, if Desert Hills wins and Dixie wins at Snow Canyon (also Thursday at 7 p.m.), we could end up with a monumental three-way tie for first place. That means the difference between a potential two home playoff games and going on the road in the first round of the 3A tournament would come down to a coin toss. There are still two weeks left, but Hurricane and Desert Hills play Canyon View and Cedar, respectively, in the last game of the year and Dixie’s last game is this week as they have a bye to close out region play.
That also means winless region teams Cedar and Canyon View have been eliminated from the playoffs, making next week’s Pine View-Snow Canyon game a loser-out contest. Yes, the playoffs start next week for those two teams. It should be a great battle, but that’s next week. This week’s contests include the aforementioned Hurricane-DH game and the Dixie-SC game, plus Canyon View and Cedar both look for their first win against each other, while Pine View goes out of region to take on a decent Bear River team. The two programs are meeting at Snow College for a 3 p.m. game Thursday.
It was a disappointing week last week for many of Region 9’s golfers. Pine View’s team placed third, although many felt the Panthers had a realistic shot at challenging Park City for the championship. Andrew Shopinski and Brandt Pierce had been the best scorers all year for Pine View, but Pierce managed just a 161 and Shopinski limped home with a 166 at the two-round event. Hayden Hayward was tops for the Panthers with a 152.
Not surprisingly, Union finished second while playing on its home course in chilly Roosevelt. When will the state get a clue and hold the tourney in sunny St. George? With so many choices, the UHSAA could easily pick a course that is “home” to no team.
Desert Hills has already clinched the Region 9 volleyball title with a 10-0 region record and 17-3 mark overall. With perennial champ Snow Canyon three games back, the Wednesday match will actually likely mean very little in the standings. But you know the dynastic Lady Warriors want a little revenge for dropping a five-setter to the Thunder earlier this season at SCHS.
Both teams should be battling late into the state tournament. Dixie looks like it will cruise in at third place unless the Flyers can win their final three matches. Hurricane has locked up a playoff spot and will likely be the fourth seed.
The girls soccer teams have headed into their third season as the playoffs begin this week. Snow Canyon is the top seed from Region 9 and will play host to Stansbury on Wednesday at 4 p.m. Dixie got hot and captured the two seed and is home to face Payson Wednesday. Third-seeded Cedar is at Delta and Pine View is at Spanish Fork. All first-round games are at 4 p.m.
Look for a full preview of the playoffs from Jeff Ames Wednesday right here on STGnews.com.