PUEBLO — Earlier this week, aa gloomy weather forecast prompted the delay of all classifications of the girls state tennis tournament.
But 24 hours wasn’t enough to for play to get going at the Class 4A tournament at Pueblo City Park. The start of play was delayed by two hours on Friday, but despite the overnight rain and overcast skies through the day, some familiar faces earned the right to play in the semifinals
Kent Denver’s Josie Schaffer will meet Cheyenne Mountain’s Morgan Hall while defending No. 1 singles champion Lucy Lu of Niwot will meet Mullen’s Lauren Manwiller.
The overall weather delay (one day for forecasted weather along with an additional two hours because of wet courts) felt disruptive from the start. But in some ways, it turned out to be a bit of a blessing in disguise, at least for some competitors.
“I’m actually thankful because I came down with a bit of a cold on Sunday,” Schaffer said. “It was great that it got pushed back for me. It’s going to be a challenge having to play two really good players on the same day and having possibly two big matches tomorrow.”
Schaffer and Hall certainly aren’t strangers to each other. They’ve met in the semifinals the last three years, with Schaffer winning each one to advance to the final.
She was a two-time defending champion a year go before being upended by Lu in a 7-6, 6-2 match. It was Schaffer’s first-ever loss at the state tournament but as a seasoned veteran at the event, she understands how much it has played into her development on the court.
“I’ve grown a lot as a player these last three years,” she said. “I used to be the underdog in a lot of situations and now I’ve grown into myself as a tennis player and started to become more confident in my game. When you get older that naturally happens.”
The mentality is different for Lu than it was a year ago. Then, she was newbie just trying to accomplish something special. Now, she plays with the weight of the world on her shoulders.
Coaches and teammates alike do their best to encourage the sophomore and keep her spirits high. But she’s learned at a young age that winning something like a state championship can change the expectations the next year when state rolls around once again.
“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.”
The same goes for her teammates. The Cougars are looking to repeat as state champions and hopefully start a run similar to what Cheyenne Mountain was able to do for the nine years prior to 2018.
Cheyenne Mountain and Niwot will enter Saturday tied atop the team leaderboard with 19 points.
“I’ve always been jealous of the target that Cheyenne had on its back and now it’s ours,” coach Aimee Keronen said. “That’s a good spot to be in because it means something good happened the year before.”
The semifinals for all positions will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday at Pueblo City Park.