You could learn all you need to know about Natalie Munson and her desire to win by her reaction to the news her finals opponent had withdrawn due to illness at the Front Range League Championships.
It wasn’t pure joy.
“She wasn’t happy about not being able to win that on her own,” Fairview coach Susan Stensrud said.
That one moment speaks volumes about Munson, her love of the game, and her desire to win. And that is just part of the reason why the Fairview sophomore is this year’s BoCoPreps.com and Daily Camera Player of the Year.
For the second straight season, Munson, playing at No. 2 singles for the Knights, was a state runner-up. She lost in the state championship match to Denver East’s Natalia Dellavalle, who also handed her only other defeat of the regular season, 6-0, 6-0.
“Right afterwards and for the following week it was definitely sour,” said Munson, who watched Dellavalle hit everything back and forced her to make a multitude of unforced errors from the baseline. “It was not how I wanted the season to necessarily end, I just couldn’t pull it all the way out.”
But the journey to get to the finals saw Munson play some of her best tennis of the season, including a win over Cherry Creek’s Julia Mannino 6-1, 6-2 in the semifinals.
“Right after that match I was like ‘Oh, dang … look at me go!'” said Munson, who had lost to a Cherry Creek Bruin in the finals as a freshman and admitted that getting up for a match against the state’s premier program always gets the competitive juices flowing. “Sure enough I walked into the next match and did not play my best.”
Added Stensrud: “That’s the best I’ve ever seen her play. She has the potential to really be an amazing player. She has amazing footwork, she’s fast and she does not give up. I think the nerves got to her in the finals this year. As long as she is relaxed, her game is pretty all around.”
Having been to the finals in back-to-back seasons only makes her drive to return that much greater. If she gets there again, it will be with a little bit different approach.
“It’s going to take obviously everything I have,” she said. “It’s going to take a lot of work and dedication throughout the season and maybe a little more focus up to the very end. I’ve got to play my best and really be focused for that one match.”
Believe it or not this whole tennis thing is still quite new to Munson, who only took up the game five years ago when her family moved to Boulder from San Francisco. And even then the competitive matches didn’t begin until three years ago.
Munson’s mother Jennifer, whom she calls her “biggest supporter,” was and still is a avid player. It has rubbed off on her daughter.
“She comes with me to all of my out of state tournaments and is always there during matches,” Jennifer Munson said. “Whether its cheering me on or telling me how to win, she’ll be there.”
Natalie Munson’s summer schedule is cramped with tournaments, not only in Colorado, but across the country. She is already at a sectional tournament this weekend and will be in Utah next month for another big tournament.
While the high school tennis season is a great way to get your name out there, playing well nationally and gaining that exposure can only help her take the next step of what she hopes will be a long tennis career.
“There is definitely tough competition in Colorado and a ton of great players come from Colorado,” she said. “Colleges will pay attention to these matches. The high school matches are good and it is a nice way to get up there for state and get noticed, but the USTA matches are what really makes a difference. And when you win, they tend to pay more attention to that.”
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