Serves Them Right

Women's tennis is the latest from the new Pi dynasty.

Hard-hitting DU freshman Rachel Sackmaster, who comes from Alpaharetta, Georgia, and chose DU over more established tennis schools like Georgia Tech and Virginia, says she believed from the beginning that her team could topple the South Alabama dynasty. "In my mind, I had no doubt," she says. While her parents, her grandparents, her sixteen-year-old brother and the family dogs, Bogey and Mulligan, looked on in Mobile, she won her singles and doubles matches and was named most valuable player of the tournament. In part, she was motivated by DU's other recent sports successes. "It helped," she says. "I think we all have high standards, but this first year is more than I ever expected."

Young, too, was stirred when the hockey Pioneers beat Maine, and she hopes her kids can now survive the first NCAA round and get a chance to face one of the country's elite tennis schools. Stanford. Florida. Duke. Southern Cal. It doesn't matter. What does matter is the experience and confidence that would come of it. "It would be great to compete against a top team, and the fact that we did so well against Brigham Young would help. We do have a tennis team here, and we hope people will start to notice."

Certainly, Young will be noticed for her coaching skills. But she isn't ready to go anywhere. Her husband of four years, Geoff Young, is a former Northwestern University number one who now coaches the DU men's team (seventh in the Sun Belt this year), and they're just settling in with their own mixed-doubles team -- nineteen-month old Gavin (whose favorite toy is his mother's tennis racquet) and three-month-old Karin. "We are busy," Dana Young allows, "but I'm very excited about the team. It's come together. We could have a nice run."

DU tennis coach Dana Young (left) with freshman star 
Rachel Sackmaster.
DU tennis coach Dana Young (left) with freshman star Rachel Sackmaster.

Freshman phenom Sackmaster agrees. "I'm very optimistic about the future," she says. "I'm feeling good, and it can only get better." Hearing the lilt in her voice, it's easy to forget about the troubled Avs, the doomed Rox or the interrupted Zoomies. Here is new belief, coming from a renewed spring of hope on Evans Avenue. Who can resist it?

The Kentucky Derby grows more bizarre each May. In 1999, a 31-1 shot named Charismatic captured the roses. Last year, an out-of-the-clouds New York-bred named Funnycide won. And on Saturday, a jockey (Stewart Elliott) who had never seen the big time piloted an obscure colt from Pennsylvania (Smarty Jones) through the Churchill Downs slop toward his own moment in history. Smarty went off as the 4-1 post-time favorite in the 130th Derby -- a sign that in the end, pedigree meant less to the betting public than pluck. The horse had never been beaten in six previous starts -- not at humble Philadelphia Park, not at Oaklawn, not anywhere. Now the new feel-good story of the racing year moves on to Pimlico and the Preakness, on May 15. And once more, the hopes of every little guy who ever tore up a losing exacta ticket go with him.

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