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Lionhearted: Payson senior Aiden Hardy honored as 2024 Utah Valley Boys Lacrosse Player of the Year

By Jared Lloyd - | Jun 18, 2024
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Payson senior Aiden Hardy (left) battles a Timpanogos player for the ball during the Region 8 game in Orem on Thursday, April 11, 2024.
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Payson and Timpanogos players battle for the ball during the Region 8 game in Orem on Thursday, April 11, 2024.

Payson senior Aiden Hardy had an interesting basketball comparison for those who are still getting to know lacrosse.

“Imagine if they had a jump ball after every made basket,” Hardy said in a phone interview on Monday. “The team with someone who is like eight feet tall would probably always win because that player would win every jump ball and they would get so many more shots.”

That’s the type of benefit provided by having a great faceoff player in lacrosse, since a faceoff occurs after every score.

But it also means that the athlete stepping up to take the faceoff is under a lot of pressure, particularly in a close game.

“It’s honestly very stressful,” Hardy said. “It’s kind of something that you have to grow into it. I remember one time — I think it was Westlake this year — when we’re down by one goal. I was getting down for the faceoff, knowing my team needed the ball. It was stressful.”

Early on in his high school career, that stress could sometimes ruin the rest of the day if he felt like he didn’t do enough for his team. As he got more comfortable, however, he realized that he had to embrace it.

“If I lose a face off, it’s not the end of the world,” Hardy said. “You have to handle it because the more stressed you get, the more false starts you get. It is directly correlated with your performance. The more you chill out, the more you realize that lacrosse is just a sport, I think the more fun you have.”

Hardy took that message to heart and became one of the top faceoff specialists in the state.

“Our whole game plan was based on what Aiden did and his faceoff ability,” Lions head coach Daniel Sisneros said. “His ability to win consistently there set us up to dominate ball possession. He put us in great position to score, but we also had a high-level defense that was helped by having him get the ball on the faceoff.”

Hardy’s performance on and off the field was a key component for the Lions, who had an excellent year and went undefeated in Region 8. That is why the Daily Herald is pleased to honor the Payson senior as the 2024 Utah Valley Boys Lacrosse Player of the Year.

“You put in all this effort, trying to be the best player you can for your team,” Hardy said. “Being able to be recognized as a good player means you showed up and did what you had to do for your team. It’s pretty cool just to be recognized for the award. It’s a team sport as much as it is but to be a valuable player for your team is just as important.”

Hardy only started playing lacrosse as a freshman, thanks to some encouragement from a friend.

“I wrestled as a freshman and there was a senior who played lacrosse on the wrestling team,” Hardy said. “He kind of dragged me out there to play lacrosse and at first I had no interest in it. But then I learned about faceoffs and said I guess I could try it.”

His early experience didn’t result in a lot of success and the team struggled as well, but he chose to give it his all.

“I decided that if I’m going to try something, I’m going to try as hard as I can,” Hardy said. “I decided to just go all in on wrestling and lacrosse. I was successful wrestler but I kind of shined on the lacrosse field more than I did in wrestling.”

Sisneros recalled getting Hardy involved as he was trying to get the Lion program up and going although at the time he didn’t realize the impact it would have.

“One of our players pointed out three players at wrestling practice who were freshmen who worked hard,” Sisneros said. “I told him to get the other two to practice, but it was Aiden who stuck with it and showed that he wanted to be better. One of the things that stands out is how driven he is. He wanted to accomplish a lot and put the work in to do that.”

Hardy said he found it extremely rewarding to take on such an important role for his team.

“I’m 5-foot-8, 170 pounds,” Hardy said. “I’m not the biggest, most athletic guy. I’ve seen faceoff guys who are five feet tall and others who are over six feet. It’s something anyone can do if they really try hard enough. It’s great to be valuable.”

Sisneros said that Hardy often had some of his best performances when the game was on the line and his team was down, both on the field and as a leader.

“I remember being at Herriman and we were in our team huddle,” Sisneros said. “I heard Aiden talking to the team and the coaches were able to take a step back. He told them, ‘hey, we’ve got this. I’m going to win the next faceoff and then we’ll get to work.’ I loved the confidence in both the team and in himself.”

Sisneros sees those attributes as things that will help Hardy as he moves on with the next things in his life.

“My advice to him is don’t change,” Sisneros said. “He’s dedicated, he loves the sport and he has that passion. He just needs to continue to grind, to get better and challenge himself because that’s the stuff that’s him gotten to this point.”

Hardy will leave in July to serve a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Georgia, but is looking forward to continuing to play lacrosse when he returns.

Before he makes that transition, though, he had a little advice of his own for young lacrosse players.

“If you’re going to do something, if you’re going to start something new, then you might as well try your hardest,” Hardy said. “Anything worth doing is worth doing right. It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be hard. There are going to be long practices and a lot of conditioning and hard games. But once it’s all over, you’re hardly going to even remember those things. You are going to remember being with your friends, so cherish it while you are in the moment.”

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