Athletics & Recreation / News

Former high school tennis rivals on the same side of the net at DU

Natalie Dunn, foreground, and Caroline Schnell were high school rivals who now play together at DU. Photo: Rich Clarkson and Associates

Throughout competitive sports, there are stories of adversaries becoming friends. After all, no one else knows the pain of defeat and the joy of victory better. In college football, the relationship between head coaches Woody Hayes of Ohio State and Bo Schembechler of Michigan is the stuff of lore. In basketball, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson became close friends after several legendary contests in college and the pros. In tennis, John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg forged a strong relationship after they played some of the sport’s most memorable matches.

In Colorado prep tennis, Caroline Schnell and Natalie Dunn engaged in one of the most memorable high school tennis rivalries ever witnessed in Colorado.

Schnell, a graduate of the powerhouse program at Cherry Creek High School, won the Class 5A No. 1 singles title as a sophomore in 2008 but found her path to repeat titles blocked by Dunn. Dunn, from Fort Collins’ Poudre High School, defeated Schnell in each of the next two Class 5A state title matches.

“Those matches were tough,” Schnell says. “You always go out there and try to play your best. But, for me, I didn’t feel like I wanted to beat her more. It’s harder to play against your friends. It’s less competitive than it would be otherwise. In one way, the outcome doesn’t matter as much, because even if you lose you are at least happy that your friend won.”

While Schnell and Dunn have known one another for about a decade, they both believe their friendship deepened as their high school careers progressed.

The women’s tennis team takes on Air Force at 7 p.m. Friday at the Colorado Athletic Club on Monaco; visit for tickets and more information.

The DU teammates and Colorado natives — Dunn hails from Fort Collins while Schnell is from the Denver-area Greenwood Village — have grown close enough to finish one another’s thoughts over the years.

“We never talked about going to college together,” Dunn says. “She signed before me, but I am always the indecisive one. But it definitely was a pro for me when [Schnell] signed. She was very nice about it and let me make my own decision. She never tried to pressure me.”

Schnell — who committed to the Pioneers first — often repeated the DU sales pitch to Dunn in hopes of twisting her friend’s arm. Schnell is quick to point out that she didn’t even know Dunn already was talking to Pioneers head coach Jeremy Wurtzman.

Last year, Dunn and Schnell were able to continue pushing one another as Pioneers. After being paired frequently as doubles partners throughout their teenage years while competing on the club circuit, Wurtzman quickly took note of their chemistry and often paired them together last season.

Overall, Dunn posted a 10-18 mark in singles matches and a 17-14 record in doubles matches. Schnell went 20-14 overall in singles and 17-16 in doubles, yet the pair turned in some of their best efforts while playing together.

As partners, Schnell and Dunn went 10-12, including an impressive 3-3 mark while competing at the No. 2 doubles slot. The pair should improve this season as sophomores and evolve into consistent singles performers.

“They’re together all the time unless they have different classes,” Wurtzman says. “They know each other’s quirks. They know when to be supportive and know maybe when to shy away a little after a tough point or a tough set. That goes a long way because with so many freshmen, sometimes it could take four years to learn to play together.

“They definitely also play well in singles and certainly we’re looking for that down the road if they keep developing and maturing. We love to have a lot of Colorado kids in the program. Hopefully others see the kind of success they enjoy, and that goes a long way for any program.”

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *