For Arizona's "mighty mouse," hard work pays off

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Gordon Bates and Gordon Bates | The Daily Wildcat Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat Lacey Smyth, now a junior, plays tennis on Feb. 18, 2012.

Lacey Smyth watched as the tennis ball struck just inside the white line. For a split second, everything went dead silent before an uproar of cheer greeted her.

She had finally won the first CIF San Diego section title for the San Marcos High tennis team in 2009. It was her last chance to win the title as she was a senior.

“Since I was a freshman I’ve wanted to win that, and it’s eluded me twice before,” Smyth said. “I am so glad that I finally won on my final attempt.”

Smyth is only 5-foot-1, so the moniker “mighty mouse” has followed her since high school. But her short stature didn’t prevent her from getting looks from major Division I tennis programs.

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She received scholarship offers from Colorado and Pepperdine, but it was when Arizona came calling that she decided to make a college decision.

“As soon as I got recruited by Arizona, I was drawn to the coaches and program,” Smyth said. “Even before I came to visit here, I knew this is where I wanted to go.”

“I knew this was the right place for me because I knew I could reach my goals here and become a better player with the coaches and other players.”

During her freshman year at Arizona, Smyth met Kim Stubbe, and Susan McRann, two members of the same freshman class. Now juniors, the three have become inseparable, training, living and studying together as student athletes.

“Lacey is a really determined person. She is one of the hardest workers on the team,” Stubbe said. “If there ever is a chance to do anything extra, she will be the first one to jump on the opportunity to improve.”

During her freshman season, Smyth compiled a 15-5 record in singles play and earned a win in the NCAA tournament defeating South Carolina’s Katerina Popova.

“She really had to buy into the idea that success comes with a little patience and that hard work don’t always guarantee wins,” head coach Vicky Maes said. “I had some things I wanted to add to her game that I felt were going to make her better overall, even though she was already very good.”

During Smyth’s freshman year, she worked with Maes to improve her patience in constructing the point, developing a transition game, closing in on the net, perfecting a powerful first serve and staying up on the baseline.

“Some athletes are unwilling to come out of that shell and I respect Lacey for trusting the process and getting out of the box a little,” Maes said. “It really built more on-court maturity, which in turn led to her success as a sophomore.”

Her hard work paid off, as she finished her sophomore year with a record of 14-11 playing in the No. 1 spot in singles and a 16-7 record while playing doubles.

She defeated numerous nationally-ranked players to help the Wildcats to a 16-9 record.

Smyth’s personal favorite moment from that season came when Arizona defeated rival Arizona State for the first time in eight years.

“It felt amazing,” Smyth said. “I knew going into that match that I was going to be playing a top player in the country. I wanted so badly to contribute to the team with a win.

“When we shut out our rivals 7-0, it’s something the players will never forget.”

Smyth looks to continue her winning ways and lift the Wildcats to a Pac-12 championship.

“She is meticulous in her preparations,” Maes said. “She dedicates herself 100 percent to training, nutrition and objectives. She has also become more vocal and, seeing how the team respects her opinion, this has given her another level of confidence on and off the court.”


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