NIWOT — The only loss Lucy Lu suffered all season was on St. Patrick's Day to Cheyenne Mountain's Morgan Hall in three sets.
It might very well have been the best thing to happen to her all season. It proved to be the catalyst that pushed the Cougars freshman all the way to the Class 4A No. 1 singles title last month in Pueblo and helped her earn the BoCoPreps.com Player of the Year honors.
"She exceeded expectations by far," said Niwot coach Aimee Keronen, the BoCo Coach of the Year who took the Cougars to their first title since 2008. "For a little freshman to come in and take names and numbers was impressive."
The regular season numbers were staggering. In the 10 other matches not against Hall, Lu surrendered just four games — yes, four games — in rolling into the postseason regional and state tournaments.
"It just made me want to work harder and improve on stuff before state rolled around," said Lu, of the motivation her early season loss gave her.
Lu's aggressive style of play that features both a powerful two-handed forehand and backhand is fun to watch. The risk-reward factor that comes with a propensity to attack the lines has won her a lot of matches.
She cruised through regionals, beating Longmont's Rebecca Pavot 6-0, 6-0 to win the regional crown and punch her ticket to Pueblo for state.
The nerves and jitters that usually accompany a freshman to state were nonexistent. Lu, 14, is a seasoned veteran of the national circuit and late in the season — late April to be exact — she was in Long Beach for a USTA event competing in and finishing fourth in the Girls 16 singles against a high quality field.
And in the grand scheme of junior tennis, Lu wanted nothing more than to add a state title to her resume.
"It's definitely one of the more important things I have achieved, and more importantly it was for the team, too," Lu said. "It meant a lot to me and it was also good to beat someone I had never beat before."
In the final Lu handled Kent Denver junior Josie Schaffer — who had knocked Hall out in the semifinals — 7-6 (8), 6-2.
And she did it with a team title hanging in the balance. Keronen assumed that Lu would get through to at least the semifinals and earn the big team points that come along with that.
"And getting first was unbelievable. I knew she was capable of it, but that was just the icing on the cake," said Keronen, who also got titles from Julia Pentz at No. 3 singles as well as Nos. 2, 3, and 4 doubles. "She's a team player, so she wanted to do it for herself and for the team and she knew the more she wins that you get the most points at No. 1 singles and if she could get us those max points then the teams had a better chance."
And unlike most uber successful freshman that burst on to the scene, win a state title and then depart for tennis academies across the country, Lu won't take that path.
"Oh, I'll be back," she said.