LONGMONT — Breaking in what essentially is an entirely new lineup with a new coach overseeing the program would be cause for growing pains for most teams.
And for the Niwot girls tennis team, perhaps those growing pains still await as the Cougars’ schedule grows more demanding. For now, however, the new-look Cougars are cruising right along while leaving frustrated opponents in their wake.
Niwot recorded its third consecutive sweep on Tuesday, spoiling the season opener for cross-town rival Silver Creek by posting a 7-0 victory. The Cougars were stretched to three sets in only two of the seven matches while improving their match record to 21-0 on the young season.
Niwot, under first-year coach Rachel Bevan, opened the season with 7-0 victories against Centaurus and Pueblo West.
“It’s been a great start,” Bevan said. “I was pleasantly surprised today just because the wind posed such a challenge for us. Against Pueblo West we had some really close matches that could have gone either way. I’m just happy my girls could pull it out and have that strong mental game.”
That strong mental approach was perhaps exemplified best by the Cougars’ No. 1 singles player, Erin Mulshine. The sophomore dropped the opening set against her counterpart, Raptors senior Amanda Higley, before rallying for a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory.
Mulshine struggled with her serve early, but as the match wore on she was able to sustain rallies even as the wind increased its ferocity. The result was a patient approach in which Mulshine waited for Higley to make the point-turning mistakes.
“I was more consistent during the second two sets and tried to let my opponent make her mistakes,” Mulshine said. “The main goal today was for the team to win and we swept, so it was a good day. It’s really exciting because we’re a brand new team and we’re all at new positions. We’re already a close team and we’ve already bonded, so it’s fun. We’ve been in a lot of tiebreakers and we’ve won them all.”
Niwot also received wins at No. 2 singles from Meagan Londa, who defeated Jennie Spielman 6-0, 6-2, and at No. 3 singles from Tara Buck, who posted a 6-0, 6-1 win against Jillian Marcus.
While Tuesday’s action provided a solid test for Niwot, and an early measuring stick for the Raptors, the schedules for each club will be more daunting later this week.
Niwot’s next dual will be Thursday at Fairview, a powerhouse program in Class 5A that boasts four singles state title winners on its roster. Higley and Silver Creek will face a huge challenge in their next dual against Loveland, the home of reigning Class 5A No. 1 singles state champion Jennifer Weissmann.
“We didn’t play as well as I’d hoped, but it was our first match,” Silver Creek coach Kelly Burns said. “Amanda played really well at No. 1 and that was a good player for Niwot. But just like Niwot, we’ve got a lot of inexperience and girls who, for a large portion, this is the first match they’ve played at the varsity level. I’m not excited to lose 7-0, but you can’t fault the effort.”
Pat Rooney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Niwot 7, Silver Creek 0
At Silver Creek H.S.
Singles — 1. Erin Mulshine, Niwot, def. Amanda Higley, Silver Creek, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4; 2. Meagan Londa, Niwot, def. Jennie Spielman, Silver Creek, 6-0, 6-2; 3. Tara Buck, Niwot, def. Jillian Marcus, Silver Creek, 6-0, 6-1.
Doubles — 1. Kaitlyn Skinner/Jennie Poole, Niwot, def. Maddie Doering/Emily Zoller, Silver Creek, 6-3, 6-1; 2. Jami Albert/Gillian Hyde, Niwot, def. Rachel Winston/Piper Doering, Silver Creek, 6-1, 3-6, 6-4; 3. Maura Derr/Isabelle Stafford, Niwot, def. Rygell Hubert/ Brigid Winn, Silver Creek, 7-5, 6-2; 4. Alexandra Frank/Lauren Richards, Niwot, def. Emily Lyneis/Amanda Burns, Silver Creek, 6-3, 6-3.