PUEBLO — A year ago, Durango sophomore Mavis Edwards came close to replicating what Kent Denver’s Josie Schaffer did as a freshman.
Edwards was on the path for an upset bid in the Class 4A state girls tennis tournament, but unlike the two-time No. 1 singles champion from the Sun Devils, Edwards ran into a buzzsaw.
She ran into Schaffer.
A year later, the 2017 runner-up again cruised through the first round and quarterfinals of the No. 1 singles bracket.
Edwards has a semifinal match on Friday with another hotshot freshman, Niwot’s Lucy Lu. This year, Edwards is more prepared than she was last year. She came into the tournament a little timid in 2017 and made sure she learned from her experience.
“I think I’ve realized how serious the competition is out here, so I can play more aggressive,” Edwards said. “I’m just not a competitive person in general, but I know what I need to do to win.”
When she says not competitive, she means that she’s not the girl on the court yelling and getting herself pumped up for each match. She takes more of a business approach. She shows up to play the best she can, she plays her match and then she moves on.
Her goals are no different from everyone else. She wants to be standing at the top of the podium on Saturday, holding a first-place medal. But after last year, she understands that winning this tournament is no easy task.
“I know there are good people here,” Edwards said. “I don’t know if playing timid of the problem or just having that thought that someone else could be better.”
For the last two years, that someone has been Schaffer. She wasted no time playing her way back to the semifinals, beating both Valor Christian's Emily Untermeyer and Standley Lake's Rachel Nguyen in straight sets.
But like Edwards, Schaffer knows that the competition at Pueblo City Park is always tough. While it’s been routine the last few years to watch her win championships, going through the process of it never feels entirely comfortable for her.
“I still get so nervous,” Schaffer said. “It’s not routine because every single time it’s a different draw and there are different people I have to play against. It’s kind of like you have to take it match by match.”
Schaffer will see a familiar face on Friday as she once again meets Cheyenne Mountain’s Morgan Hall in the semifinals. They crossed paths the last two years in the state tournament, with Schaffer getting the win each time.
But by no means does that mean that Schaffer thinks a win is automatic.
“She’s a good player,” Schaffer said. “She’s so mentally tough that it’s not the same match with her each time. I can’t go in thinking I’m just going to win. I have to work really hard and have a good strategy.”
From a team standpoint, everything seems to be going well for Niwot. The Cougars advanced all seven positions into Friday’s semifinals, the only team to do so. They currently sit in first place with 21 points. Defending champion Cheyenne Mountain is in second with 18.
“I knew we could be (in the lead),” coach Aimee Keronen said. “It was just a matter of what showed up and everybody showed up today.”
Semifinal matches will begin at 9 a.m. Friday at City Park with playbacks immediately following.