BY VICTOR FLORES email@example.com
Spencer Neville has spent his entire high school tennis career in the shadows of other players.
There were his brothers, Hunter and Taylor. There was former Hillcrest High School teammate Orin Duffin. This year, Bonneville’s Justin Fullmer and Timberline’s Spencer Smith nearly shattered Neville’s confidence.
But the senior-to-be hardly crumbled against his foes. Neville redeemed himself, which is why he’s the 2015 All-Area Boys Singles Tennis Player of the Year.
Hillcrest graduates Hunter and Taylor cast the first shadows over Neville, winning the 4A state boys doubles title and the All-Area Boys Players of the Year award in 2011. Neville was a seventh grader at the time.
Neville began his career at Hillcrest in 2012-13, the first year Duffin was named the All-Area Boys Player of the Year. Duffin, now at Idaho State and currently on an LDS mission, won it again the following year as a senior, to go along with his first place trophy at the 5A state tournament.
“Orin was always better than me,” Neville said. “He used to hit with me all of the time. We were hitting buddies. It made me a lot better.”
Neville evaded Duffin’s shade this season only to be overshadowed by Fullmer. Neville lost to the Bonneville senior in two of their first three bouts, which included a 6-2, 3-6, 2-6 loss in May’s 5A District 5-6 boys singles championship.
“I wasn’t really expecting him to play so good,” Neville said of Fullmer. “The first set, I had good intensity. In the second and third set, I was kind of discouraged. Everyone was cheering for him. It was hard to get back up from that.”
A week after districts, Neville faced Timberline’s Smith in the first round of state. Smith won 6-3, 6-1, immediately eliminating Neville’s title hopes.
“He was so mad he wanted to quit,” Hillcrest coach Heath Hartman said. “I told him, ‘You can come back, or you can give up.’”
Neville chose the former.
He cruised 8-3 in his each of his first two consolation matches (eight-game pro sets). Then he faced Fullmer. He won that match 8-3 as well.
“I was expecting him to play good,” Neville said. “I went out there, had a different mindset and I had my intensity up the entire time.”
That win set up a rematch with Smith. Neville was more locked in this time and built his lead to 8-7 with a chance to take the match. He fired his serve to Smith, whose return hit the net. Neville shouted, ‘Cmon.’
Neville only had 20 minutes to prepare for the consolation final against Centennial’s Gavin Hatter. Neville was drained. He lost 2-6, 0-6.
Neville is pleased with his fourth place finish, especially when he realized who finished ahead of him. Hatter, Borah’s Kyle Whittaker (second place) and Boise’s Jacob Schoenherr (first) were all seniors.
Neville expects next season to be shadow-free.