PUEBLO – If there was any doubt that Niwot freshman Lucy Lu belonged with the best tennis players in the state, she erased them early Friday morning.
Lu cruised to a 6-0, 6-2 win over Durango’s Mavis Edwards to advance to the No. 1 singles final of the Class 4A state girls tennis tournament. It’s Lu’s third decisive win of the tournament which is not lost on the crowd that has gathered at Pueblo City Park.
“I’m definitely more confident winning three-straight matches,” Lu said. “But tomorrow is going to be more tough. Obviously, I’m not going to win easy tomorrow, so I just have to go out and try my best and if I lose, that’s fine. I’m out here enjoying the experience.”
To complete a magical freshman campaign, Lu is going to have to beat Kent Denver’s Josie Schaffer, a two-time defending No. 1 singles champion.
Schaffer and Lu have played each other twice in the last year and Schaffer has gotten the win both times. The first meeting went to a third set and Schaffer got a two-set win in the second meeting.
Looking back at what Lu has done, Schaffer couldn’t help but think back to her freshman year when she made a similar run and capped it off with a win on Saturday to claim state gold.
“That was the most nervous I’ve ever been,” Schaffer said. “Being on that court and having everyone watching you is a terrifying experience, but at the same time, it’s exhilarating. It’s so fun. I’m really happy she gets the opportunity to do that too.”
Lu’s run at state makes for a good weekend, but teammate Julia Pentz is finally getting the opportunity to compete for her own title, which will make for a memorable conclusion to her career.
Pentz had advanced to the semifinals twice – as a freshman in 2015 in No. 1 singles and as a junior in 2017 in No. 2 singles – but could never reach the final.
She fell in the No. 1 singles quarterfinals as a sophomore.
But she gutted out a win over Lewis-Palmer’s Emma Gaydos in the No. 3 singles quarterfinals Friday to finally earn the chance to play for a gold medal.
“I was talking to my teammates and I’ve never really made a state final before,” Pentz said. “I’ve always played for third or fourth, but never first or second so to have it be my senior year and to be playing for first is an amazing feeling.”
Her semifinal match is a testament to what the Cougars have done as a team at this tournament. There was adversity, but she overcame and it put herself in a position to walk away with the highest of successes.
“I was so happy for her,” Niwot coach Aimee Keronen said. “And she had to fight. She was down 5-2 in the second set and came back to win five-straight games. She had such drive and heart and all the work we’ve done with our mental coaches has paid off.”
Niwot still holds the overall team lead with 69 points. They sit five points ahead of Cheyenne Mountain and both teams placed five positions into finals. Three of those finals will be against each other.
While the Indians are on a hunt to win a 10th-straight title, the Cougars are looking to play spoiler. Niwot was the last team other than Cheyenne Mountain to win the 4A team title and it happened in 2008.
“We have a banner from 2008,” Keronen said. “We walked the girls out to that banner and showed them that this was the last time we’ve won that championship. Now a decade later, we have that opportunity again. Hopefully we can get the job done.”
Saturday’s finals and third-place matches begin at 9 a.m. at Pueblo City Park.
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Class 4A state tournament
At Pueblo City Park
Team scores — 1. Niwot 69; 2. Cheyenne Mountain 64; t3. Kent Denver 23; t3. Mullen 23; 5. Lewis-Palmer 21; 6. Valor Christian 18; 7. Durango 16; 8. Palmer Ridge 15; 9. Longmont 9; t10. Air Academy 7; t10. Loveland 7.
Longmont results — No. 3 Singles -Ariana Arenson (Cheyenne Mountain) def. Taylor Merz 6-0 6-2; Merz def. Makenzioe Middleton (Golden) 6-4 6-4.
No. 2 Doubles -Willa Sobel/Remi Peck (Kent Denver) def. Tanna Carson/Felicia Archuleta 7-6 6-7 7-6.
Niwot results — No. 1 Singles – Lucy Lu def. Mavis Edwards (Durango) 6-0 6-1; No. 2 Singles – Austynn Crocker (Lewis-Palmer) def. Taylor Thulson 6-3 6-0; Thulson def. Kyra Rothwell (Palmer Ridge) 6-3 6-3; No. 3 Singles – Julia Pentz def. Emma Gaydos (Lewis-Palmer) 6-2 7-5; No. 1 Doubles – Jessie Cleary/Izzy Watts (Mullen) def. Rachel Drake/Tehnley White 6-3 6-3; Drake/White def. Ciara Robak/Bali Fitzpatrick (Palmer Ridge) 6-2 7-6 6-4; No. 2 Doubles – Lily Sieben/Erin O’Neill def. Sam Chavez/Marguerite Keegan (Valor Christian) 7-6 6-2; No. 3 Doubles – Catherine Xiao/Maedee Trank def. Samantha Cordasco/Kate Danis (Air Academy) 6-4 6-1; No. 4 Doubles – Emily Creek/Annie Neinritz def. Kate Douglas/Tess Kelly (Palmer Ridge) 6-2 6-3.