Hillcrest girls tennis repeats as region champions, sixth in state; program’s best results in decadesNov 07, 2023 12:12PM ● By Julie Slama
Hillcrest High’s girls tennis team repeated as region champions. (Scott Carrell/Hillcrest High)
This is the best Hillcrest High girls tennis team in 20 years—and it’s only going to get stronger.
That’s what head coach Creighton Chun is conveying about his back-to-back region champions, who also took sixth place at state.
“We had region champions in our one, two and three singles and our first doubles, were a fifth seed and upset every team ahead of them to become region champs,” Chun said. “Our sixth place at state is the best finish we’ve had in 20 years; we had two girls that made it to the semifinals, first time in 20 years and one went on to the finals. Another player made it to the quarterfinals, so we had three girls in the quarterfinals, again, first time in 20 years.”
As a 15-0 region champion, with high universal tennis rating, Hillcrest’s top player, junior Fabiana Gonzalez, was a first seed at the state tournament in Liberty Park. After a bye in the first round, she won in the round of 16, 6-0, 6-0, and won in quarters, 6-1, 6-1.
In the semifinals, she met a Japanese exchange student who attends Snow Canyon High.
“That player only lost twice all season—to the 5A and 6A state champions, otherwise maybe she would have been seeded higher. Both of her parents were tennis pros in Japan,” Chun said. “Fabi played her game and put it away. She played excellent tennis against her, the best I’ve seen her play.”
The 6-3, 6-3 win put Gonzalez into the finals.
On the other side of the bracket, Orem High senior Maya Inouye had a first-round bye, then advanced the next two rounds 6-0, 6-0. In her semifinal match, she won 6-2, 6-2.
An hour after the semifinals, the final match began.
It was a game where they were familiar with each other’s play.
“They’ve played together and against each other before; they’re friends,” Chun said. “Fabi has three losses in three years and two of them have been to Maya. Last summer, Fabi beat her twice.”
Gonzalez took an early command of the match, winning the first set, 6-2.
“The first set Fabi played so well; she knew what she had to do,” he said.
After getting down in the second set, Gonzalez rallied back to make it 3-3.
“She lost focus a bit during the second set and lost that 3-6. We regrouped. I told her to let it go and she was doing well in the third,” he said.
During that close third set of the three-hour match, Inouye started to cramp and stopped play twice to stretch.
“That just got Fabi in a different mindset. She thought that she could out rally her rather than be aggressive and put away those shots. Fabi had her chances; she had double match point. The way the match ended was a heartbreak. If Fabi wins the point, she’s back on serve. Fabi was up there, ready to hit the ball, to be aggressive, to probably put the ball away,” Chun said.
Instead, the ball hits the net cord and trickles over onto Gonzalez’ side of the court.
“It was where she can’t even get it. That was probably the hardest thing, the way that ended. It was a hard match; I was so proud of her,” Chun said.
In the second singles, junior Camila Andrade, who was undefeated in the season entering the state tournament, won her next two rounds 6-4, 6-2 and 6-4, 7-6 after a first-round bye to make it to the semifinals.
“Camila played wonderful. She was a four seed, so she played the one seed in the semis. She has improved so much from last year and was playing great. She ended up losing 2-6, 4-6, a respectable score. I’m very proud of Camilla’s play,” he said.
Even as region champion, third singles junior Jacqueline Wei had to compete in a play-in held at Brighton High to advance to play at Liberty Park.
“Jacqueline played at Brighton and the mother of the girl Jacqueline beat at Brighton came to watch her at Liberty Park because she could not believe how well Jacqueline was playing,” Chun said. “Jacqueline won the first round 6-0, 6-0, then the round of 16, 7-6, 5-1.”
In quarterfinals, Wei was matched with the No. 2 seed.
“She was playing her best tennis before that and she had a chance with this matchup,” Chun said. “She’s undefeated at this point in state.”
Exhaustion also played a factor for the players in the third singles action.
“Jacqueline played really well, and it was a close match. She needed a little more strength and stamina. She just couldn’t hang on and wasn’t hitting as hard because she didn’t have the energy. She played so well all season,” he said.
The first doubles team, junior Ava Butler and sophomore Ava Booker, also were matched at Brighton High.
“Unfortunately, it was an off day for them. They played unusually poor that day and lost. If they played like they had played at region where they played so well, they would have been playing at Liberty Park,” he said.
His second doubles team had a high enough rating to advance to Liberty Park. The team of freshmen Ameera Al-Sweedy and Siah Kim, which had lost to the one seed at region, came back to win the consolation bracket to take third place.
“They played exceptionally well at region, but they were matched against a stronger team from Cedar City at state,” Chun said about their loss 3-6, 2-6 in the round of 16. “They had been playing exceptionally well.”
“Our program is getting deeper and we’re getting some good players coming in next year. It’s going to be a dogfight to get that last spot in doubles on our (varsity) team,” he said, adding that he awarded 11 varsity letters this season.
In JV, sophomore Rosemary Lu won first singles and freshman Kyla Stalberger won second singles to become region champions. Sophomore Erica Patterson placed second in third singles, while the first doubles team took fourth and the second doubles team took third. Overall, the team finished second in the JV championship. λ