PUEBLO • Luke and Nick Lorenz, brothers and friends, walked side by side in the brilliant morning sunshine.
They have spent so many tennis days together. They are linked by success.
They were about to separate. Discovery Canyon senior star Nick was preparing to open the gate to the courts at Pueblo City Park, where he would battle Richter Jordaan of Colorado Academy for the 4A No. 1 singles title.
Big brother Luke offered final words for Nick.
“We did everything we could to prepare for this moment,” Luke said. “Good luck. Have fun. I love you.”
Luke intimately understands the pressure that awaited his brother beyond the gate. In 2014, Luke won the 4A title in a slight upset.
I wish I could tell you Nick walked on the court and followed in his brother’s steps.
He did not. Nick lost, 6-1, 7-5, to Jordaan, a close friend. It was Nick’s second defeat in the state final. He finished as runner-up as a freshman, too.
After the loss, Nick did not hide his sadness. He wanted to win a state title, just like big brother. And it went beyond wanting.
He expected to rule the state, especially after coming close as a freshman. Expectations can lift you. That’s for sure. But expectations can crush you, too.
In the aftermath of his defeat, Nick was crushed.
Sports can be so much fun. My boys played 2A football and basketball in Colorado Springs a decade ago, and we still find joy in their victories. It’s such a kick to win, and those triumphs linger in your soul.
But sports can deliver such misery, too. My sons and I still moan about the losses and all that might have been. While sitting here typing, I still see their haunted faces.
The face of defeat.
And that face looks even more haunted after a state final loss.
You work so hard for an ultimate win. You believe so deeply you can do it. And then you come so close. Winning a state title lifts and thrills you for the rest of your life.
But there’s a downside. Losing a state final is mightily difficult to shake.
Nick, a few minutes into his loss, already understood this. He’s not sure he will continue to play tennis in college. Yes, he’s that discouraged.
“I was impressed with myself as a freshman,” he said. “After that, it’s just been disappointing.”
I told Nick, twice, he should be proud of his high school career.
“I know I probably should be, but . . .”
“I don’t know. I always expected more. It’s been a struggle for these past three years.”
For a moment, it looked as if Nick might rule Colorado. After struggling in the first set, he seized control of the match, taking a 5-2 lead in the second set. A superb passing shot in the eighth game pushed him to a 30-15 lead, and he indulged in the briefest of celebrations.
Nick turned to Discovery Canyon fans, and to Luke, and shook his fist. A ride to the third set, when anything can happen, was right there. He owned all the momentum.
But that was the last glimmer. Jordaan again gained control and cruised to victory.
When the match ended, Nick shook hands with Jordaan, opened the gate and started a long, slow walk. He soon was trudging a few yards away from his brother.
They looked at each other for a long moment. They didn’t say a word.
They didn’t need to.