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Defending 1A champ Lui back for more in 2012 | Prep sports feature
When Michelle Lui stepped on campus at Forest Ridge in 2010 for her freshman year, it was far from the first time. Lui had been a student at Bellevue's only all girls school since seventh grade, but mostly blended in with the rest of the nearly 400 students in grades 6-12 who knew she played tennis, but were unaware she did so on the national level.
"I was just the girl who missed school because of tennis," Lui said. "Before last season, no one really talked to me."
While her peers had been previously unaware a tennis prodigy was in their midst, that all changed when Lui burst onto the prep scene last year with an 18-0 record and the first state championship in school history. This season, she has still yet to lose a prep match and is looking to become the first repeat champ in the 1A tournament since 2007, when Bush School's Liz Lewis accomplished the feat.
Lewis captured the state title in each of her four seasons as a prep to join Erica Perkins (1994-97) from University Prep as one of two players in Washington 1A history to finish all four of their prep seasons with a championship.
Lo believes that type of history could be on the way from Lui as well.
"She's definitely top-tier," Lo said. "There's only a handful of girls at her age group in the whole country who are better."
Lui has posted a 287-190 United States Tennis Association junior record since beginning in 2006 and captured a handful of tournament titles in the process. In her most recent tournament at the Pacific Northwest section championships, Lui defeated her first two opponents in straight sets, losing only five games combined before falling the title match.
On her run to the 2011 prep state title, Lui dropped only three games in four state tournament matches, taking all four in straight sets.
"I never thought any of this would happen," Lui said of her success on the court. "I thought I would just play for fun. But it has taken me to great places."
While she still has over half of her high school career in front of her, Lui is well aware of her chance to become the third player to win four 1A state titles in girls tennis.
"I think I have a good chance this year again," she said. "It would be awesome to win four straight."
While she doesn't lack for confidence, her coach said Lui has never shown even a hint of arrogance. Rather than placing unrealistic expectations on her teammates, Lui has used them as a way to deflect the attention from herself whenever possible.
"For the first three years I was here, Forest Ridge had a pretty laid back athletic program," Lo said. "The kids played just to have fun, which is great, but winning and losing didn't really matter at all. Since she came on, she just brought everyone else up and has them taking it more seriously."
The result has been perhaps the most competitive team in school history, with a trio of other players who Lo said have a shot at joining Lui at state in doubles pair Olivia Cero and Fanny Anderson and singles player Tiffanie Chai, who all made deep district tournament runs last season.
As for Lui, Lo has no doubt about her outlook in the postseason.
"It would take a mental breakdown for her not to perform," he said.