PUEBLO — First impressions can count for a lot. In the case of of the team race at the Class 4A boys state tennis tournament, they don't necessarily count for a lot right away, but those first impressions can result in major gains later.
After the first day of the tournament, Niwot is sitting in third place as a team. And the Cougars feel that this is a year that they can make real noise at this event.
"Today was a great day considering that this is the first time here for six of our kids," Niwot coach Miikka Keronen said. "I think it's going to be a year that we believe that we can play with these guys and that we belong here."
Niwot has four positions who advanced to Friday's semifinals. The semifinal matches carry the most weight in therms of team points, so getting as many kids to that point is always crucial for any team in the tournament.
"You have to get the majority of the kids through to semis to have a legitimate shot," Cheyenne Mountain coach David Adams said.
And Adams would know. The man is no stranger to winning state titles for either the boys or girls teams.
The last boys title came in 2012 where five of the seven positions advanced past the semifinals.
It's not a bad blueprint for a team like Niwot to look at. The Cougars are young in their own right, but they're playing at a level that suggests they're looking to do more than just learn what it's like to play on that grand of a stage.
"We are competing," Keronen said. "And we'll see what happens."
One of the positions that the Cougars won't have a semifinalist in is No. 1 singles where freshman Neil Wilcox's title hopes were ended by Discovery Canyon's Nick Lorenz.
Lorenz knocked off the freshman 6-0, 6-4. If Lorenz makes it through Friday morning's semifinals, Wilcox will get pulled into the consolation bracket where he can continue to help his team.
And if that's the case, he doesn't expect much of his strategy or playing style to change.
“Not really," he said. "I just have to continue to stay positive, attack and play my game.”
Riley Black advanced to the semis for the Cougars in the No. 2 singles bracket. Sam Keronen and Riley Mulshine are among the doubles teams that made it.
In the No. 1 singles bracket, last year's runner-up is looking to once again break into the finals.
Between four sets, Peak to Peak's Brett Finan lost a total of nine games and is playing as though his mission is to avenge last year's championship loss.
"I was definitely focused," Finan said. "I'm not giving up any free points in any of my matches."
His next match will be with all the other semifinal matches Friday morning at 9 a.m. Playback entries will be determined by the results of the semifinals and those matches will begin immediately after the championship matches have been determined.