Feb. 28, 2013
UA Communication Services
Her name is listed in the roster as Lacey Smyth but many around the women's tennis program know her as "Mighty Mouse." The nickname, given to her last year by the weight room training staff, caught on and even occasionally surfaces as a chant in her matches. The name may not sound intimidating, but assuming so would prove foolish. Smyth, a 5-foot-1-inch junior, packs a serious punch. She has already garnered two Pac-12 Player of the Week honors and has posted ten wins, including two against ranked opponents.
These feats are perhaps even more impressive considering the lack of time Smyth has been able to have for preparation. Due to an injury, she was held back from competing in fall tennis but she surprised even the medical staff with her quick recovery.
"My doctors said I probably wouldn't be ready until January," Smyth said, "but I ended up winning my first tournament in November. I was able to get my confidence back and show myself that I could play at the level I was at before."
If there is anyone who knows exactly how to prepare for the excruciating level of Pac-12 competition, it's Smyth. Her work ethic has astounded everyone around her, teammates and coaches alike.
"Lacey is a perfectionist," head coach Vicky Maes said. "She is a master of preparation. She does everything in practice that helps her make a better competitor, making the most of every minute. It is her discipline that has earned her the respect of everyone."
Smyth's talent is unquestioned but the intensity in which she prepares has separated her from adequate to elite.
"I owe all my successes to my drive and motivation," Smyth said. "I work hard on and off the court. The coaches support everything I do, and I wouldn't be here without my work ethic."
Her drive has paid off, as Smyth has been able to take down some of the top tennis players in the country. Last year she defeated the 11-, 15-, 28-, and 46-ranked players, and early on this season she has taken down competitors ranked 25th and 50th.
Rather than getting herself psyched up for the big matches, Smyth prefers a different approach; playing top players as she would any other opponent.
"I try not to think about the rankings and just worry about myself," Smyth said. "The numbers don't always mean everything."
While Smyth's dedication has always been deeply rooted, a new role has emerged for her this season. On a team without a single senior, she has a new presence as a team leader. As someone who is usually on the soft-spoken side, this has been a critical transformation.
"I've definitely had to step up and break out of my shell," Smyth said. "I've always been quiet, leading by example but this year I've really had to voice myself."
With a team so young, any piece of advice can be of tremendous help in preparation for conference play. In providing guidance, Maes and the rest of the coaching staff have relied on Smyth to share her experience.
"She has taken a few of the younger ones under her wing," said Maes. "That has had a positive impact. We are a very young group and Lacey's leadership is extremely valuable."
Despite the youth, Smyth remains very optimistic for the season ahead.
"We have a lot of work we need to do," Smyth said, "but we've had some good wins and we can be a great team. I know it's there and we can get to where we want to be."
As long as the team continues to be emboldened by Smyth's hard work and dedication, the Wildcats will be a tough group for anyone to contend with.