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Midvale Journal

Hillcrest freshman may net recognition at state tennis tournament

Oct 04, 2021 01:35PM ● By Julie Slama

Hillcrest High’s tennis team is all smiles as they headed to the courts, ready to take on Payson High on Sept. 14. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Fabiana Gonzalez picked up a tennis racket when she was three years old and living in Venezuela. She moved to the United States two years and three months ago, to Midvale.

The 14-year-old is Hillcrest’s No. 1 singles player and as of press deadline, was undefeated on the court as a high school player.

“My goal is to go to state and if I can make it to the quarterfinals, I’d be proud of myself,” she said. 

First-year head tennis coach Creighton Chun says, “I got lucky,” when she moved into Hillcrest’s boundaries.

“If her opponents have a second hit, they won’t have a third. She’ll hit it hard and put it away. She can drill it as hard as anyone can,” he said.

Gonzalez said she was surprised that she unseated junior Sowmya Paritala, Hillcrest’s best solo player the past two seasons.

“I was really surprised and never thought I’d be playing No. 1. Everyone has treated me nice and on the bus rides, we talk about how fun it is and how we learn from each other. I learn something new about myself in the game every day. Tennis is about technique and it’s also a mental game,” she said.

With her steadiness and the strong play of teammates of Paritala, who now is playing No. 2 singles, and senior captain Erin Zhang, at No. 3 singles, and the leading doubles team of junior Lily Greenwood and senior captain Shay Minoughan, Chun believed the team could be the region-contender this year and qualify players for state.

Paritala, Chun said, has been playing well in the No. 2 spot.

“I’m really good playing in this spot,” she said. “Fabiana is definitely a better player even though I’m playing some of my best tennis without the pressure of our old region. She makes very little mistakes and even has given me feedback when I hit with her. Our whole team is like that. We’re not afraid to give each other feedback to help one another to get better and our coaches are great to help us understand how to change to improve our game.”

Paritala started playing in her later elementary school years after watching her brother play at state for the Huskies. 

“Playing at state became my goal, too,” she said, hoping to realize it this season. “I’ve worked on my consistency, my form, my shots so I hit it hard every single time.” 

Off the court, the 4.0 grade-point average student is studying to earn her international baccalaureate diploma. She also is involved in HOSA (Health Occupations Students of America), FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) and National Honors Society.

“Our team has players who are involved in a lot of school activities in addition to tennis and holds one of the highest team GPAs at the school,” Chun said.

For example, Zhang has a 4.0, according to Chun; she also was recently named a National Merit semifinalist. 

Greenwood, who takes IB and Advanced Placement classes and is a member of the school’s dance company, teams up with Minoughan, who is an outfielder on the Huskies softball team. The duo leads the school’s doubles teams.

“We hadn’t played together until the start of the season,” Greenwood said. “We work well together, and we’re able to play off each other’s energy.”

Greenwood, who started playing tennis as an elementary school girl and credits her sister, who played for the Huskies, for helping her become a stronger player, said by playing doubles, her shot placement has improved and she has learned a different skill set in tennis.

“The coaches (Chun, and his brother, Chris) have motivated us and are helping each of us with improving our skills,” she said. “Creighton’s helped me a lot with volleying; it’s not my favorite to be close to the net with balls flying at you.”

Minoughan said their play complements one another as she said playing the net is her strength. She first tried out for the tennis team for fun and “I ended up loving it.”

Now, as her fourth year on the tennis team comes to an end, she’s still enjoying the sport.

“We play our best, we have fun and with our new region, we’re seeing some different players,” Minoughan said. “We all get along, hang out at times and have a lot of fun at team dinners.”