Hannah Fenske often comes across as all business.
The recent Volcano Vista High School graduate applies laser-like focus to athletics and academics. The results tend to speak for themselves.
A two-sport standout throughout her high school career, Fenske helped propel the Hawks to three state titles – two in basketball and one in soccer. As a senior the 5-foot-8 Fenske effectively willed Volcano Vista to a Class 5A basketball championship and helped her soccer team reach the state semifinals.
Her ledger doesn’t end there.
Fenske has proven to be at least as good in the classroom as she is on the hardwood or the pitch. She graduated with a 4.57 grade-point average, good enough to rank eighth in her class.
“Whatever she does, she’s 100 percent in it,” Hawks girls basketball coach Lisa Villareal said. “Hannah’s a total perfectionist.”
Fenske’s impressive résumé makes her an easy choice for the Journal’s female metro-area Athlete of the Year, and local sports writers weren’t the only ones taking notice. In December, Fenske caught the eye of U.S. Naval Academy women’s basketball coaches. Soon afterward she accepted a scholarship to play at Navy.
Fenske’s results-oriented personality would seem to make her a good candidate for the challenging military environment. But her no-nonsense approach to basketball was also enough to prompt a question.
“Even the Navy coaches said, ‘You look so serious when you play. Why aren’t you ever smiling?'” Fenske said. “I guess when I’m on the court I’m just so focused on what I have to do. I am having fun, though.”
Off the court, Fenske’s demeanor changes. She is quick with a laugh and smile. It’s only when someone is keeping score that her serious side emerges.
“Hannah’s such a competitor, I loved playing with her but not against her,” said La Cueva’s Alexa Romano, a club basketball teammate of Fenske’s last summer who lined up against her during the prep season. “I miss having her on our club team, though. She’s a really fun person.”
Fenske believes her all-in approach relates to being the youngest member of an athletic family. Her parents, Jackie and the late Jerry Fenske, played basketball and softball, respectively, and Hannah’s older siblings set the bar high for little sister.
Nick Fenske played soccer and basketball growing up and at Cibola High School, and Emma Fenske, two years older than Hannah, did the same through an impressive career at Volcano Vista.
For a time, Hannah resisted following in her siblings’ cleat marks.
“Nick and Emma were both playing soccer,” Jackie Fenske recalled, “and every year I’d ask Hannah if she wanted to play. The answer was always ‘no.'”
The memory made Hannah laugh.
“I don’t even remember why,” she said. “I just remember saying, ‘no.'”
The answer finally changed when Hannah was 9, and she quickly discovered a passion for soccer and basketball.
Fenske initially spent more time playing soccer, thanks to extensive club competition. At Volcano Vista, Fenske played four positions in four seasons, including a stint at goalie when she was a freshman.
Fenske was a three-time all-state soccer player for the Hawks, who won a state championship her freshman season and were 5A runners-up each of the next two years. Understandably, she thought soccer would be an integral part of her future.
“I thought for the longest time I’d play college soccer,” said Fenske, who had a scholarship offer from San Jose State.
Instead, basketball started gaining traction as Fenske’s prep career continued. First, she enjoyed a memorable sophomore season, teaming with sister Emma as the Hawks won the school’s first basketball championship.
“Having Emma with me motivated me to try to be the best player on the court,” Fenske said. “The two years I played with her were the most fun I’ve had.”
Her final year wasn’t bad, either.
It effectively started last spring when Fenske joined Romano and Clovis standout Danni Williams playing club ball for New Mexico-Texas Heat Elite. The rigorous season gave Fenske a taste of what top-level hoops could be like.
“The competition level was so high,” she said, “and I’m one of the most competitive people you’ll ever meet. I loved it.”
Still, Fenske didn’t immediately find a college landing spot. Having spent most of her summers playing soccer, she went into her senior year with a few schools interested but no Division I basketball offers.
That changed in December, when the Hawks hosted Eldorado in an early-season showdown. One of Navy’s women’s coaches – in the area to watch a tournament in Rio Rancho – decided to take in the game. Fenske led the Hawks to a 72-63 win and noticed a mystery coach talking to Villareal afterward.
“We were going undercover,” Fenske said, “sneaking around trying to see the logo on her shirt and figure out what school she was from.”
Fenske was soon contacted by Navy and decided to visit the academy in early January. One of the recruiting pitches she received was from St. Pius grad Alix Membreno, who was in the senior year of a basketball career at Navy.
“She was like, ‘Hey, I knew your sister,'” Fenske said. “It was nice having a connection. And once I saw the school I thought it was a great fit.”
Fenske committed in January and refocused on the season at hand, which was something of a roller coaster for Volcano Vista. The Hawks were regarded as one of the state’s better 5A teams, but lost four times to rival Cibola and were blown out by top-ranked Clovis during the season.
Volcano Vista went to the state tournament as a No. 5 seed. Villareal remained confident, thanks in large part to Fenske’s presence.
“She just works so hard and leaves no doubt about the standard she expects,” Villareal said. “We basically gave her a green light and let her lead the troops.”
Fenske did just that, racking up 69 points in four state-tournament games. She paced the Hawks to narrow wins over Hobbs, previously unbeaten Clovis and finally Mayfield on a stunning championship run.
“I think the Clovis game was probably most exciting,” Fenske said, “because they beat us pretty bad the first time. But we got up 7-0 right away (in the state semifinal) and I remember thinking, ‘Hey, we can do this.'”
Fenske went on to amass 23 points and seven assists in a nail-biting 54-53 win over Mayfield in the championship game at the Pit – her final high school game. But Hannah and Jackie said their favorite memory from that day came later, outside a local restaurant.
“There were some kids there from Centennial (High School) who came up to us,” Jackie said. “They congratulated Hannah and said, ‘You know, there are a lot of kids in Las Cruces who look up to you.'”
Hannah conceded it was not business as usual.
“I didn’t expect that,” she said, “and it felt really good.”