PUEBLO — One look at Niwot sophomore Lucy Lu and it would be tough to guess that her first two matches of the Class 4A girls state tennis tournament ended with such dominating wins. But that’s because she has a different mentality this year than she did a year ago when it was going to be tough for anyone to knock off two-time defending champion Josie Schaffer.
But Lu rose to the challenge and sent the then-Kent Denver junior home with her first loss at the state tournament. With that win, however, comes expectations of where she needed to go from there.
She more than held up her end of the bargain as she blazed through her first two matches in the No. 1 singles bracket. She blanked Liberty’s Hana Kimmey 6-0, 6-0 before getting another easy win in the quarterfinals, that one a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Grand Junction’s Julianna Campos.
It fell right into the roadmap that Lu has drawn for herself. It’s also the course that she feels those around her expect her to be on.
“There are definitely more expectations from others and I have high expectations for myself,” Lu said. “I’m just going to play the best I can and we’ll see what happens.”
That’s more or less the mentality the team is trying to take. The Cougars were phenomenal on the courts at Pueblo City Park a year ago and ended Cheyenne Mountain’s run of nine-straight team titles. They’re hoping to repeat 2018 with the spark of a run of their own, but the key to winning again is to keep emotions and expectations tempered so that it still feels as if they’re hunting — not defending — a title.
“As returning champs, we definitely have high expectations for everyone out there, but we’re trying to ignore the fact that we’re defending a title and just coming in here like any other team,” Lu said.
The Cougars sent six of seven positions into semifinals. Rachel Drake fell to Air Academy’s Mackie Tate Tygert in three sets. That puts a big emphasis on how things shape up in semifinals. “We have to get every match we can tomorrow and hope for some help from friends,” coach Amiee Keronen said. “We have to get some playback matches to help us out for a team title.”
The Cougars head into the semifinals locked in a first-place tie with Cheyenne Mountain with 19 points.
Longmont saw action in the second round as Rebecca Pavot and Taylor Merz each won their first match of the day. Neither could advance to the semis, however, and will await the results of Saturday morning’s semifinals to see if they will compete in the consolation rounds.