The Niwot girls tennis team has been one of the most competitive programs in Colorado over the past few seasons, and right-hander Rachel Drake is a big part of the reason why. Now as the team prepares to defend its Class 4A state title, head coach Aimee Keronen is looking to her lone senior to help bolster the team’s mental preparedness.
“She has been so fun, everybody just loves her, and her attitude is just great,” Keronen said of the veteran, who went 9-1 during her final regular season and will be making a fourth appearance in the state tournament. “She kept everybody happy and in such a good mood. Playing-wise, she’s just super consistent and always one of the top three or four players in the lineup. Such an impressive career.”
Drake is in the final weeks of that career, and though she has had her share of successes with the squad, she didn’t have to think too long to come up with her favorite memory from the past four years.
“Winning state, and just that feeling of working so hard to finally obtain that goal. It seemed so lofty, but we really, really worked hard that season. It was in our minds all year to win state, so when we finally got word during the finals—I think No. 4 doubles was still playing—it was just the most overwhelming relief.”
Drake is back in the singles lineup this season, and will be competing for Niwot at No. 3 at the state tournament. She played there as a freshman and sophomore, but was slotted into No. 1 doubles with Tehnley White during Niwot’s title run in 2018. This year, she is eager to test some new skills she picked up as a partner last year.
“With doubles, I obviously had someone to rely on and be able to talk things through. When situations got stressful, or we got down, we had each other to bounce back with...I learned a lot more about myself and how I like to play tennis, and I think that’s going to be really important for me going back to singles.”
When she’s not on the court for Niwot, Drake is an active volunteer for the I Have a Dream Foundation, where she helped coach tennis and supervised other enrichment activities, including art projects. She is also a youth leader for middle school ministry at Ascent Community Church in Louisville, and has been on several missions for the group. Next year, Drake is headed to Boston College, where she plans to enter the Carroll School of Management and major in marketing.
Until then, however, Drake is looking forward to spending time playing sport that has been such an important part of her life.
“Tennis, before high school, it wasn’t much of a team sport. But when you have the team sitting right at the fence and cheering you on, there’s no better feeling than that support. I’m excited to give that support and to get it.”