NIWOT — Not long ago, even as she made an early impression on the tennis court, Erin Mulshine was best described more appropriately as an athlete than a tennis player.
Just when Mulshine has officially reversed that description, she’s suddenly preparing herself for the end of her time on a competitive tennis team.
The senior from Niwot has quietly established herself as one of the top singles players in the region, notching a top-eight finish at the Class 4A state tournament as a sophomore and moving into the top six last year as a junior.
Mulshine has won consecutive Times-Call Player of the Year honors and will be the key fixture in the Cougars’ push toward a top-five team finish at state. And yet as her senior season begins, Mulshine is ready to move on. She does not expect to compete beyond the club or intramural level at college, meaning every moment she enjoys this spring with the Cougars will be moments to savor.
“I have some of the most epic tennis coaches in the state, and they really have helped with everything,” Mulshine said. “They really help with technique, footwork, the mental aspect, strategy — every component of the game, they’re really good about. It’s helped me become a smarter tennis player and a better tennis player.
“It’s just weird that it’s going to be my last season and it’s going to be ending soon. I was thinking about playing D-2 or D-3, and keeping it a little more low-key, but I don’t think I want that. It’s been really fun in high school and I love my team, and it would just be weird to play with a different team.”
Mulshine is sorting her collegiate options between Wisconsin, Michigan, and North Carolina. While she isn’t exactly ready to hang up her tennis shoes just yet, Mulshine is more than ready to make a final drive toward achieving one milestone that has eluded her — namely, a berth in the No. 1 singles state semifinals.
“Our team is strong this year, and I think we’re going to do a lot better throughout the season, like at state and regionals” Mulshine said. “I’m excited because we’re more experienced and we’re definitely ready for the season.
“I don’t like to set goals as far as placement goals, because I always try to go out and play my best. As long as I play well, then I’m OK with whatever position I get. I just want the team to do well.”
Second-year Niwot coach Aimee Irwin has witnessed a pattern emerge with Mulshine. Each season she may start somewhat slowly, almost like a baseball player getting his swing together during spring training. By the time state rolls around, however, Mulshine typically is a finely-tuned machine.
“She’s different in that she’s such a great athlete,” Irwin said. “(Mulshine) plays a lot, but not like on the tournament circuit. Which makes it even more amazing what she can do. That’s how from the first month of the season to the last month, she just keeps getting better and better and better. At state, that’s where she knows she needs to shine. And so far since I’ve been coaching, that’s where she shines. It’s exciting.”
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