Tennis has provided a family bond for Kent Denver's Josie Schaffer

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(Dan Mohrmann/CHSAANow.com)

Shortly after touring the campus at the University of Virginia, Kent Denver's Josie Schaffer was able to process just how much tennis has been a family affair for her.

Brett Schaffer, her father, played on that same campus in Charlottesville. He was a three-year letter winner in the early 1980's. He loved the game and decided that he would filter his love of it to his children.

"He kind of introduced to all my sisters and me," Josie said. "I guess it just really stuck for me. It kind of became something that we just always did together, just for fun. I started to really fall in love with the game when I was about 10 so it just took off from there."

Yes it did. Schaffer is a two-time defending Class 4A state champion in No. 1 singles. In just her junior year, she's aiming to claim a third title and keep her hopes for four alive.

Her freshman year, she made it look much easier than it should be for a 15-year-old playing in the top singles division. She beat Pueblo West's Sara Schoenbeck in straight sets to help Kent Denver claim one of two singles titles that day.

After the match, she was even-keeled. She was humble. She was quiet.

But her actual mindset couldn't have been further from what she was showing.

"I was so intimidated," she said. "I was terrified. My first match at state, I was so nervous and all of my teammates were there cheering me on. It’s definitely an intimidating experience, but it’s also so fun to have all those people supporting me. It was a really great experience, but at the time, I was terrified."

It was the first step in realizing just how far she had come since she completely took on the game at 10-years-old. And it helped that Brett had more or less been with her through that whole journey, trying to shape her as much as a human being as he was a tennis player.

"When I was younger, he was my coach in a way, but not really," Josie said. "He taught me a lot of the life lessons that you can get from tennis. I get really discouraged when I’m losing in a match, he’d be there to tell that I have to learn how to fail at something. It’s important in life to persevere through that."

There was no failing during her run through the state tournament as a sophomore. Schaffer never dropped a set in her hunt for a second-straight title. She dropped a total of seven games.

Josie Schaffer Kent Denver girls tennis

(Dan Mohrmann/CHSAANow.com)

Whatever nerves she felt as a freshman looked to have completely settled down. Or that's what she would have everyone think. The thing about her is that she doesn't just care about her own success. She can't help but look and see how her teammates — her friends — are faring in their championship matches.

"It was a lot easier because I had already been through it," she said. "But I was still really nervous as far as going out there for the final. I just really love my team and it’s such a cool experience being there with my team and they’re all playing their matches as state finals are going on so it’s kind of like we’re supporting each other from a distance, but it’s still fun to have that team there."

She knows that when the postseason rolls around, she's going to have a big target on her back. She's aware that as a freshman, she took down a good player who was more experienced.

Should she share a similar fate to Schoenbeck's in 2016, it won't devastate her and make her rethink tennis as a whole.

She's been to the top of the mountain and she knows how much work goes into reaching that level of play. If someone is able to match or pass her, it's just a part of life.

"If I don’t win two more state championships, I would be okay with that (in the long run)," she said. "I wouldn’t be satisfied with that, but I would accept it eventually. As long as I’m competing hard and I still love the game and I’m challenged in these matches and I’m having fun while playing, it will be enough for my legacy. That’s all anyone can ask for."

And there's certainly no worry that she'll disappoint her father, a former Division I level player. Tennis has been more of a bonding experience for the Schaffer family than anything else.

Win, lose or drawn there is always going to be love and encouragement that comes out of each match.

"He’s definitely proud of me for everything that I’ve accomplished," she said. "But even if I hadn’t won state two times or done everything that I have done, he would still be proud of me for the person I’ve become because of the game."

Even if the pride is always there, Schaffer has shown that she's a high-level competitor. And every competitor aims to be the best. She's done that twice, and come May, she has everyone intention of making three times a charm.