Anshika Singh arrived at Smoky Hill like a tennis mirage, but she’s turned out to be quite real.
Buffs’ girls tennis coach Jeff Davis has had to pinch himself at his luck with the transfer of Singh, a former Cherry Creek star who’s giving a program starving for success a power punch.
The supremely talented newcomer sat out all of last season, but has won all of her matches going into the upcoming Class 5A regionals and quickly made a believer out of her new coach.
“Everyone knew about Anshika because she had come to Smoky Hill last year, so it wasn’t a surprise,” Davis said. “It was one of those things, though, where I had to see it to believe it that I would have her on my team. She always said she was going to play for Smoky, it was just a matter of it actually coming to fruition. When it did, we were thrilled.”
Indeed Singh’s presence is now both real and thrilling for a program that hasn’t scored a single point at the Class 5A girls state tennis tournament since 2005.
After all, players just don’t transfer away from Cherry Creek, where state tennis championships come as the rule rather than the exception.
Yet Singh did it, just not for tennis reasons. Academically, she found the fit of the International Bauccelaurate program at Smoky Hill — where her younger sister, Amisha, a golf star, was already enrolled — suited her better. So she left for greener academic pastures.
“I left on good terms, but I was definitely excited to join a new team,” Singh said. “It’s been a lot of fun and they’ve been really welcoming at Smoky. Cherry Creek has a lot of players that are really good and have a lot of previous experience, while Smoky is a newer team and building up. It’s pretty cool to see a team that is improving all the time.”
Singh had to watch her new team from the sidelines last season because of the Colorado High School Activities Association’s transfer rule. Because she transferred mid-year without a physical move for the family, Singh had to sit out the entire spring season.
Once she was cleared, Singh got back to the business of dominating high school tennis. She went undefeated in her freshman season at Cherry Creek, playing a handful of matches at No. 1 singles, but settling in the No. 2 spot where she won a state title with a commanding 6-0, 6-0 win over Fairview’s Natalie Munson.
As the clear No. 1 with the Buffaloes, Singh is off to an astonishing 13-0 start in which she’s dropped a mere four games in her 26 sets, with two of them coming in a win over Grandview freshman Haley Artis.
Davis’ appreciation for her talent and in-match demeanor has only risen.
“Anshika’s the epitome of the full package; she’s very athletic, she works hard and she’s very talented at hitting and placing the ball,” Davis said. “She’s also very intelligent, so she doesn’t take a lot of coaching and she figures it out on her own. She’s really an awesome player.”
Singh has a difficult regional coming up as the Buffaloes travel to Region 7 at Colorado Mesa University, where she will face a No. 1 singles bracket that includes Fruita Monument’s Sarah Fleming and Rock Canyon’s Meghna Chowdhury, a freshman with just one loss.
Singh believes she’s as well equipped as ever with a game that she works on with as many as three outside coaches, which helps keep her sharp while she goes through drills on a semi-regular basis with Smoky Hill.
“I’ve been trying to play more aggressive and hit harder and heavier shots,” Singh said. “I’ve been working on that a lot and it’s been coming along pretty good. My biggest strength is definitely my problem solving on the court, it’s always been something I’ve been good at.”
With a full arsenal at her disposal, Singh could be just the player to end Smoky Hill’s quest to get on the map at the state tournament.
Patti Urban is Smoky Hill’s most iconic name all-time when it comes to tennis, as she won the No. 1 singles state title in three straight seasons between 1985 and 1987 before she went on to play at Brigham Young.
Urban may also have been the last No. 1 singles player from an Aurora school to win a state tennis title. Cherokee Trail’s Jaqueline Palmucci came closest in recent years with back-to-back third-place finishes in 2009 and 2010.
Meanwhile, the Buffaloes haven’t even had a state placer since the No. 4 doubles team of Rochelle Poell and Kasey Krall placed fourth in 2004.
Singh would love to reverse Smoky Hill’s fortunes, but she knows not to get ahead of herself.
“I would love to win one for Smoky Hill, but it’s a lot of work,” Singh said. “I just have to take it one match at a time and not look too far forward.”
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel