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Forest Ridge senior sporting a smile on fourth state title run | Prep sports feature
Michelle Lui redefines the look of a champion.
Whether the Forest Ridge senior is talking with teammates before a match against Annie Wright School, hitting warmup shots with her opponent, or even after losing a point, Lui sports the same look and comportment about her deceivingly powerful frame.
But rather than the intensely focused scowl that has become ubiquitous with competition, Lui, the three-time defending 1A girls singles state champion, wears an ear-to-ear grin that lights up whatever court, classroom or group she is part of.
"She is always smiling," said Forest Ridge athletic director Kim Eng, who has known Lui since she was a middle-schooler at Bellevue's only all-girls Catholic school. "She is quiet, so you don't realize there is this killer tennis player inside her."
Class 1A foes have been firsthand witnesses to Lui's ability to flip the switch on the court, often with overwhelming results.
Also an accomplished club tennis player ranked in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States Tennis Association, Lui owns a perfect record on the prep court during her three-plus seasons. That includes every league, district and 1A state championship match she has competed in, many of them ending in straight sets. This season, she tries to become only the third player in Class 1A history to win four state singles championships on the prep court, joining Liz Lewis of Bush School and Erica Perkins from University Prep.
But for the effervescent star of an emerging giant in small school girls tennis, it is about more than the results.
"I love that team aspect," she said. "It has been so fun to see the progress we've made each year."
Part of that progress has been bringing home state championships, which Eng and coach Jason Price has only increased the visibility of the sport among the current student body, as well as with prospective students.
"We have a really amazing thing going on," Price said. "It's just unbelievable to watch and be part of this."
The Ravens have a host of players who look like contenders for district and state tournament spots this season, including Olivia Cero, sisters and doubles partners Tiffanie and Christina Chai, and freshman standout Sasha Cayward.
Cayward, a Mercer Island resident who has played club tennis with Lui since their youth, said she sees the three-time defending state champion as a role model on and off the court.
"I've been looking forward to this since sixth grade," she said of joining the high school team with Lui. "It's been a life-changing thing."
The last thing for Lui is to finish her final season with another trophy, and the Seattle University bound senior said if she were forced to choose between another individual crown or a team title, it would be no contest.
"I would say the team, for sure," she said. "We've worked so hard, and I don't think I could get to where I am without them. I don't see why we can't win state this year."