PUEBLO — When it comes to preparing for an opponent, Lewis-Palmer girls' tennis player Austynn Crocker is no Michael Jordan.
The basketball legend was known to study film and memorize an opponent's tendencies prior to every game. Not Crocker, who wants to know as little as possible about who she's facing.
That way, she said, "I don't freak out."
That approach worked well for the sophomore, who bounced back from a slow start to top Niwot's Taylor Thulson 6-3, 6-0 in the No. 2 singles semifinals Friday at the Class 4A state tournament at Pueblo City Park. It was their first meeting.
Entering the match, Crocker didn't want to know anything about her opponent -- though one of her teammates had played Thulson before.
"I don't like to talk to my friends about the people I'm playing," said Crocker, who lost in the quarterfinals at No. 3 singles last year. "So I told (my teammate) to not tell me anything. So I just knew her name."
That victory stood out during a day ruled by Cheyenne Mountain and Niwot.
Cheyenne Mountain, the nine-time defending state champion, advanced two singles players and three doubles teams to Saturday's title matches, enough to put the Indians in second place with 64 points. Niwot is ahead by five points and in prime position to dethrone Cheyenne Mountain, thanks to advancing five positions to the finals, including three doubles teams.
Kent Denver and Mullen are tied for third with 23 points.
The team standings are a stark contrast to last year, when the Indians clinched the state title on the second day of the tournament.
“We have five positions in the finals and one playback,” Cheyenne Mountain coach Dave Adams said. “Funny thing is, I don’t think that’s going to be enough.”
Both No. 2 Corey Patton Lossner and No. 3 Ariana Arenson advanced to their respective finals, while the Indians’ doubles teams also impressed: No. 1 Taylor Heinicke/Jensen Enterman, No. 2 Emma Delich/Sydney Wagner and No. 4 Zola Bzdek/Maggie Dwyer all moved on to the championships.
At No. 1 singles, Cheyenne Mountain's Morgan Hall fell 7-5, 6-1 to Kent Denver's Josie Schaffer, a two-time defending state champion. Hall has a playback match Saturday.
Lossner had perhaps one of the toughest days, as the senior outlasted Valor Christian's Darby Warbuton 7-6, 5-7, 6-2 in a three-hour duel, the last semifinals of the day to complete. Lossner is the only returning state champion from last year's team.
"We've been pleased with what we've been able to do," Adams said.
Lossner will face Lewis-Palmer's Crocker, who expressed surprise by her state tournament run. Crocker said she owns a 2-1 record over Lossner this season.
Championship matches begin 9 a.m. Saturday at Pueblo City Park.