John LaCognata's tennis team has a lot of drive. Even if the most of the girls themselves can't actually drive.
Lone Peak enters as one of the favorites in the 5A tennis scene, and will get a chance to showcase a lot of young talent at the state meet starting Wednesday at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City. The Knights have one junior and a senior among their seven varsity members (three singles positions, two doubles teams) and the singles rotation goes with a sophomore, freshman and another freshman.
"It's a very talented team I have," LaCognata said. "It may also be the youngest team I have taken to state. We'll see how that pans out."
Lone Peak's situation is a mirror of Utah County.
Timpview, in 4A (that meet's first two rounds are Thursday at Liberty Park), has top player Kate Cusick, a freshman, followed by sophomore No. 2 player Kali Cravens.
Spanish Fork has one of the best players in 3A (starting Friday at Liberty Park), Josi Braithwaite — a sophomore.
Where are all of the upperclassmen?
Well, mostly at the Salt Lake-area schools.
Though Orem has arguably the best of the best: Erica Valimaki, a senior, will look to repeat her 2011 No. 1 singles title.
Natalie Blaylock, a senior at Spanish Fork, should contest highly at No. 2 singles.
LaCognata credits some local clubs that have afforded players from Lone Peak and elsewhere to flourish year-round. And others are committed wholly on their own at a young age. He says he had players that were going unchaperoned for around three hours a day in the summer heat.
The only player who had to sacrifice, it would seem, is senior Megan Call. She went from playing No. 2 singles last year for Lone Peak (making the second round of the state tournament) to now playing No. 1 doubles, albeit undefeated this year after going 10-2 last season.
Call is teamed with sophomore Electra Cochran.
LaCognata praised his team's oldest player, saying she's been a "great team player," and the influx of young talent has the Knights poised for a shot at the team title after tying with Alta last fall.
The young singles players are a combined 30-0 heading to state. There’s sophomore Taylor Calton at No. 1, trying to advance past the semifinals this year. Then add Leah Heimuli and Morgan Hall, who jumped right to near the top of their high school sport.
"All the jealousy that I thought maybe could transpire," LaCognata said of the unique situation, "really hasn't taken place. The girls have all taken the attitude of 'Why wouldn't we support someone that's going to help us win?'"
Make no mistake, these young players could do a lot of winning over the next 2-3 years.
Or, starting this week.