PUEBLO - The English language is chock-full of homonyms, words that sound the same yet have different meanings.
Cheyenne Mountain has a few of its own. Meet Casey Ahrendsen and Ally Arenson.
Yes, the names sound identical. And to add a little intrigue and confusion, the freshmen form quite the No. 1 doubles team. On Friday at the 4A girls' state tennis tournament at Pueblo City Park, the duo dominated their opponents from Eaton in straight sets to advance to the finals, one of five Cheyenne Mountain entries to claim victory in the semifinals.
The Indians, winners of the past five 4A state team titles, carry a 66-48 lead over St. Mary's Academy heading into Saturday's championship and third-place matches.
Action is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. Saturday.
"Almost everyone we play thinks we're sisters," Arenson said. "We've been playing together for pretty much our whole lives, and we have a really good dynamic and work really well together. And we got a lot of help in adjusting to playing in high school."
Ahrendsen added: "We're not related, but we feel like sisters while we're playing. Since we've known each other for so long, we know each other's strategies, and that's helped us become great partners."
The two have led Cheyenne Mountain's doubles teams to continued success, even in the midst of a youth movement after five of last year's eight varsity players graduated. Despite that inexperience that saw six players make their state debut this week, three of the Indians' twosomes will play for state titles on Saturday.
"Normally, we put our freshmen in the lower half of the team, just to get them situated," longtime Indians coach Dave Adams said. "You never know how they'll respond, and that's one reason I like to keep freshmen lower on the ladder. When you get to state, it's a different deal. With Casey and Ally, they always tell me how nervous they are, but I never see any nerves with them at all."
Ahrendsen and Arenson stepped into a program with prodigious tennis success, with 18 team titles since the program started in 1970. And in the doubles category, the Indians have claimed no fewer than two state titles in each of the past five seasons, including all four in 2012 and three last year.
They're not the only varsity newbies sharing doubles success. In No. 2 doubles, sophomore Claire Dibble joined returner and defending state champion Tori Louis (3 doubles in 2013) to achieve a finals berth, as did sophomore Chelsey Geisz, a junior varsity player last year, who teamed with returning letter-winner Megan Dibble.
There's a constant reminder of the program's success at the team's practice courts. A cutout of a tennis ball - one with each state-title year - takes the shape of a long train that spans the top of the fence.
"There's a little bit of pressure since we have a winning tradition, but we don't get that nervous," Arenson said. "Our whole team is very supportive and cheers us on, and our coaches help us with strategy, and usually, we get through things pretty calmly. I think it's more stressful on the sidelines watching than it is in a match."