Lu defends her Class 4A singles titles
Niwot head coach Aimee Keronen was delighted with her team’s performance at the Class 4A tennis championships in Pueblo last weekend. Unfortunately, she wasn’t quite as delighted with the final team standings.
“The girls played amazing,” Keronen said. “It was a great tournament, and I honestly don’t know how we didn’t win. We exceeded expectations in several lines and got three state championships. I had to redo the math quite a bit, because I just couldn’t believe we didn’t win.”
The math was a bit convoluted, but ultimately it checked out. Niwot ended the rain-shortened weekend with 71 team points, just five behind Cheyenne Mountain, a team looking for redemption after their streak of nine consecutive state titles was snapped by the Cougars in 2018. This year, it was Niwot’s turn for an unexpected reversal in fortune, and a rare misstep at No. 3 singles gave the opportunistic Indians all they needed to eek out the win.
However, Keronen didn’t want to let the frustrating team loss overshadow Niwot’s remarkable individual performances during the championships, not least of which was Lucy Lu’s at No. 1 singles.
“Lucy would have won in any class and in most states probably,” Keronen said of the standout sophomore, who successfully defended her individual title against Kent Denver senior Josie Schaffer.
Like last year, Lu cruised through her early rounds, and then ousted Mullen sophomore Lauren Manwiller (6-1, 6-2) in the semifinals, setting the stage for a rematch of the 2018 championship final. There, Lu downed Schaffer, the former two-time champion, 7-5, 6-1.
Keronen was also impressed with Tehnley White’s play at No. 2 singles, after the junior mounted a dramatic comeback in the consolation semifinals.
“She was down 6-0, 4-1, and she just turned it on,” the coach said. “It was awesome. It gave our team new life. We knew we had to get some points there to even have a chance, and she was just incredible.”
White then went on to win the consolation final to finish third overall.
Niwot’s other two titles came in the doubles lines. At No. 2, juniors Maedee Trank-Greene and Lily Sieben defeated Air Academy (6-3, 6-4) to capture their first title as a pair. Both won state titles with different partners last year.
At No. 3 doubles, Niwot ninth-graders Anna Sallee and Georgia Lang beat Cheyenne Mountain 6-4, 6-4 in the championship finals, fulfilling expectations Keronen set for them on the first day of tryouts.
“I knew they were going to do that,” she said of the freshmen, who moved up from No. 4 doubles earlier in the year. “I wasn’t even nervous.”
Elsewhere, Emily Creek and Catherine Xiao were runners-up in the No. 1 doubles bracket, after falling 4-6, 1-6 to Cheyenne Mountain in the championship final. In No. 4 doubles, Annie Heinritz and Avery O’Neill claimed third overall, with a 6-0, 6-1 win over Mullen in the consolation final.
It was a tough weekend for Rachel Drake at No. 3 singles. On Friday, the senior dropped a hard-fought match to Air Academy in the quarterfinals, and then lost her playback spot when her opponent failed to advance, ending her high school career prematurely.
“It was an incredible match, and I could not have asked for anything more out of her,” Keronen said of Drake’s 5-7, 6-3, 4-6 defeat. “She didn’t give up, she kept fighting, and it went to three sets.”
“Rachel handled it really well, and was actually the best teammate the next day, supporting everybody” Keronen continued. “It was awesome.”
Keronen and her squad will start working on a new blueprint for beating Cheyenne Mountain in a few weeks when the summer workout program begins. According to Keronen, the Indians should hold off on making plans for another long championship streak.
“We’re only losing one, and we have another good freshman coming in. They’re losing quite a bit, including their No. 1 singles player and at least a couple on the doubles line. So we should be the team to beat next year, hopefully.”