Niwot ace Lucy Lu had an excruciatingly effective system in making sure she didn’t become complacent during the high school tennis season. Or maybe it was just excruciating.
Setting seemingly ridiculous expectations on herself throughout the spring — like not dropping a single point during some of her matches — it was evident that the Cougars sophomore was wound a little different than most other high school players.
At regionals in early May, Lu was visibly upset walking off the court following a 6-2, 6-0 finals victory over a talented player in Longmont’s Rebecca Pavot.
To her, it wasn’t enough to win a regional title and punch her ticket to state.
It’s in the details. And on this day, they weren’t quite perfect.
“Sometimes I’m a little too hard on myself,” she said looking back. “I need to learn to accept that sometimes I’m going to miss.”
Lu’s self-imposed guidelines weren’t quite as strenuous at the Class 4A state tournament, where she won her second straight state title to eventually led to her being named 2019 BoCoPreps.com player of the year.
The sophomore dropped 12 games through her four matches, but never a set. At the end, she trumped Kent Denver’s Josie Schaffer, the same player she beat in the 2018 championship.
Summing up her two years, Niwot coach Aimee Keronen points not only to Lu’s superior skill set but her unique mental strength. When asked about the lofty expectations Lu puts on herself, the coach said she understood.
“I was that player myself,” said Keronen, who played at the University of New Mexico. “I would go (6-0, 6-0), but I would be so mad because I just didn’t play well. I understand her mentally and I think a lot of people don’t. … She’s very hard on herself but that’s why she’s so good.”
Unlike a lot of high-caliber players who roll through the high school field as ninth-graders, Lu optioned to come back as a sophomore and help Niwot contend for another team title. She said moving forward she doesn’t plan on returning another year, instead focusing on other opportunities.
Keronen, who played all four years in high school before going D-I, said she will try to persuade her otherwise.
“(High school tennis) was a great experience and it was really fun,” Lu said. “My goal was to win state and I did it twice, so I think I did accomplish my goal.”
This summer, Lu, a four-star recruit per the Tennis Recruiting Network, will attempt to boost her national ranking at tournaments on the East and West coasts.
As for those overbearing expectations? She plans to ease up.
“It makes me a litlle bit more nervous and I tense up a little bit more in my matches,” Lu said. “But it definitely helped me keep my focus.”