SYRACUSE -- Expectations can be a double-edged sword.
While having them is what often drives a player or a team, it's quite possible that they can bring with them a crushing weight.
"Our expectations for the season were to win region first, then go undefeated and win state," said Syracuse High School senior Jennifer Hazlett. "We did exactly that; we talked about expectations every day, and that's exactly what motivated our whole team to work as hard as we could every day in practice; we all thought the same thing, 'this is our year'.
"This year was definitely the hardest year we've had in our three years because everyone expected the most out of us, and we expected a lot out of ourselves."
Those high expectations ended up taking the Titans to the destination that they spent every day dreaming of.
An undefeated state 5-A girls basketball championship, a storybook season capped with an 62-49 victory over Pleasant Grove the title game at Salt Lake Community College on Feb. 27.
And through it all was Hazlett, a senior, a third-year starter who progressed from talented player to the unquestioned leader of the state's best team.
Hazlett averaged 17.2 points on 50.2 percent shooting from the field, along with 5.4 rebounds, 3.9 steals and 2.1 assists, but her impact was also felt far beyond the box score.
The senior guard's exemplary leadership was the catalyst to the Titans' 25-0 season, and with that in mind, she is the Most Valuable Player of the Standard-Examiner's 2009-10 All-Area Girls Basketball Team.
Hazlett, who also earned the award in 2008-09, is the first repeat MVP for girls basketball, and one of seven repeat first-team selections on this year's All-Area team, joining teammates Kiana Fonua and Brittney Martin.
The All-Area team is selected based off of individual statistics, region and state tournament team finish and input from the 18 head coaches in the newspaper's five-county circulation area.
"Jen has grown up a lot over past three seasons not just skill wise, but as leader as well," Syracuse coach Rob Reisbeck said. "She was not as vocal her first year as a sophomore, but with each season she became more and more vocal. From the very start she did an excellent job of leading by example.
Overall Jen has done an outstanding job of leading this team the past three years."
She also formed a bond with Martin, a sophomore forward, and the duo became an unstoppable inside-outside force -- combining for more than 35 points and 13 rebounds a game.
"Jen and Brittney worked well together both on and off the basketball floor," Reisbeck said. "They worked so well to together on the floor, and they used that to their advantage to set up each other to be successful. Everything went through them on both ends of the floor. The team looked up to them and followed their example."
The explosion of Hazlett's career has followed the Titans' rise from a new school to becoming a dominant force in the Utah girls basketball scene.
The Titans won 24 of their 25 games by double figures this year, scoring 1,668 points (seventh best all-time in Utah history) and averaging 66.72 (10th best). Syracuse allowed just 981 points (39.24), winning by an average margin of 27.48 points.
"For me personally, my best moment was when I finally started figuring things out after my slump in the middle of the season," Hazlett said. "I finally gained confidence and I started playing like I should have all season."
With her high school career in the books, the 18-year old Hazlett will be taking her game to the east coast beginning this fall where she will play for Army in West Point, N.Y.
"Finally getting a championship after three years of hard work trying to build a program was the best feeling," Hazlett said. "I was just glad that I could leave Syracuse on the best note I possibly could. I just hope that I helped build something that will be dominant for years to come.
"The best moment was holding the trophy and cutting down the nets after the game, and celebrating with my team; (After we won state) we were escorted by tons of police cars when we got to Syracuse. We were all hanging out the windows shouting as loud as we could; it was just an awesome moment."