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By Jocelyn Rowley

Girls Tennis: Niwot aces Regional tournament


Photo by Jocelyn Rowley The Niwot girls tennis team qualified for the Class 4A state tournament after their win at the 2018 Region 5 tournament on May 4 at the Longmont Rec Center. From left: Coach Aimee Keronen, Tehnley White, Lily Seiben, Catherine Xiao, Julia Pentz, Lucy Lu, Taylor Thulson, Maedee Trank-Greene, Erin O’Neill, Emily Creek, Rachel Drake and Annie Heinritz.

The Niwot girls tennis team is headed back to the Class 4A state tournament after cruising to the Region 5 title at the Longmont Rec Center tennis courts on May 4.

All seven lines were straight-set winners in the championship round of the rain-shortened event, which was originally scheduled for May 2 and 3, but had to be postponed twice. When play finally opened on Friday morning, the Cougars efficiently made their way through the early rounds, winning all but a handful of games, then made quick work of the Longmont Trojans in the all Niwot/Longmont final to claim yet another regional title.

Following the dominating performance, Niwot head coach Aimee Keronen said that this year’s squad has a bit of an edge over her previous state qualifying teams.

“These girls are doing the little things that make the difference,” she said. “They’re very talented physically and can play the game so it’s more the mental aspect. We’ve been working on the mental stuff more than in years past, and it really helped today and it’s been helping throughout the season, and that a huge part of their success.”

Niwot’s Lucy Lu claimed her first regional title at No. 1 singles, with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Rebecca Pavot of Longmont, and will head to Pueblo later this week as a top contender for the state title against the loaded Class 4A field, despite her youth. Keronen, however, isn’t concerned about the freshman’s lack of team tournament experience.

“She’ll be just fine,” Keronen said. “She plays so many national-level tournaments, and she’s used to high-pressure situations. It’s a little more pressure representing your team and not yourself, but I think she’s got it.”

Seniors Taylor Thulson and Julia Pentz will be making their fourth trips to Pueblo, where both are serious contenders for individual state titles. Pentz went 12-0 in the regular season at No. 3 singles, and counts three defending state champs among her defeated opponents. Thulson ended the year at 11-1, her only loss coming to Cheyenne Mountain’s Corey Patton Lossner, an opponent she expects to see again later this week.

Thulson, who is taking her tennis talents to Carleton College next year, placed third in the Class 4A No. 2 singles bracket in as a freshman and sophomore, but lost in the quarterfinal round last year when she qualified in the No. 1 bracket. Back in the second spot to make room for Lu, the senior agreed with her coach about Niwot’s competitiveness headed into this year’s championships.

“This is the best team we’ve had since my freshman year,” she said. “I’m super stoked for the doubles teams. I think we’re going to do great.”

Her excitement about the doubles lineup is certainly warranted after their performance at the Regional. Senior Erin O’Neill and Lily Sieben shut-out their Longmont opponent at No. 2, while No. 1 pair Rachel Drake and Tehnley White went 6-2, 6-0 over Eva D'Epagnier and Madison Jayne. At No.3, sophomore Maedee Trank-Greene earned her second trip to state, when she and fellow sophomore Catherine Xiao took the title with a 6-0, 6-3 win.

Niwot freshman Emily Creek will be making her bid for a second state championship in 2018, after she and partner Annie Heinritz crowned their undefeated regular season with a win over Longmont’s Kallie Westmoreland and Jesse Bartel for the No. 4 doubles regional title. Winner of the 2018 individual state slalom title back in February, Creek said getting mentally prepared for tennis matches involves a whole new approach.

“Tennis is so much longer, an hour compared to 30 seconds,” she said. “Usually I can get myself down the hill before I get too nervous, but sometimes when I’m out on the court I get shaky, and I have to just take a minute and breathe.”

The convincing win at Regionals capped off an outstanding regular season for the Cougars, their only loss to nine-time defending champion Cheyenne Mountain back on March 17. Keronen is optimistic about her team’s chances against the loaded Class 4A field, as she has been all season, but she stopped short of making a prediction.

“We just have to worry about ourselves,” she said. “We have to get our job done.”

Photo by Susannah Thulson Freshman Lucy Lu hits a backhand at the 2018 Region 5 tournament on May 4.

The Class 4A State Tennis Championships are scheduled for May 10-12 at Pueblo City Park.

5/4 — Class 4A Region 5 Tournament, Longmont Recreation Center

Team scores — Niwot 84, Longmont 56, Northridge 25, Silver Creek 22, Skyline 6, Centaurus 3.

Singles — 1. Lucy Lu def. Rebecca Pavot, Longmont, 6-0, 6-0; 2. Taylor Thulson def. Amber Weston, Longmont, 7-5, 6-3; 3. Julia Pentz def. Taylor Merz, Longmont, 6-0, 6-1.

Doubles — 1. Tehnley White/Rachel Drake def. Eva D'Epagnier/Madison Jayne, Longmont, 6-2, 6-0; 2. Erin O'Neil/Lily Sieben def. Tanna Carson/Felicia Archuleta, Longmont, 6-0, 6-0; 3. Maedee Trank-Greene/Cathrine Xiao def. Anna McConahy/Maya Givens, Longmont, 6-0, 6-3; 4. Annie Heinritz/Emily Creek def. Kallie Westmoreland/Jesse Bartel, Longmont, 6-1, 6-3.


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