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SANTA FE — A team like the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys tennis squad runs heavily on emotion.
After this weekend, those emotions should be running high.
The Hilltoppers will return to the state Class 4A championship this week after another big showing in the district tournament. The Hilltoppers blanked the Española Valley Sundevils in Saturday’s team final as well as picking up the singles and doubles titles to close out their regular season.
This weekend’s tournament capped a 2011 season that was filled with uncertainty going in. Los Alamos had lost its top two players off the 2010 state runner-up squad as well as head coach Giri Raichur.
However, with former Hilltopper standout Billy Wilton taking the reins and a good nucleus of veterans returning, Los Alamos got itself back to form.
Hilltopper Stephen Townsley cruised to victory in the singles draw, giving up just one game in three matches. Townsley defeated Rafael Garcia of Santa Fe 6-0, 6-0 in the final to pick up the title.
In the doubles draw, Chase Havemann, who won the 2010 district singles title over Townsley, partnered with fellow senior Dominic Lucido to earn the 2-4A championship. Havemann/Lucido shut out Española Valley’s team of Devin Gallegan/Antonio Garcia to earn the title.
Los Alamos has finished second at the state Class 4A tournament each of the last four years, each time defeated by Albuquerque Academy in the final.
Havemann said this year he’s motivated by the win posted by Los Alamos’ top doubles team in 2010, Patrick Raichur/Matt Whicker. He’s hoping memories of that victory, the first by a Los Alamos team in more than 20 years, will get him and the rest of his team fired up in 2011.
“Me and Dominic knew we wanted to do doubles. It was our best chance to take a state title,” Havemann said. “It was our best chance at a repeat. It would be awesome if we could repeat with two new players.”
Havemann/Lucido was about as efficient as it could be Saturday, hitting well-placed volleys throughout and giving up few unforced errors on the day.
Los Alamos’ top doubles team has fared well against most of the rest of 4A and feels it has a shot at a back-to-back Hilltopper title.
In fact, the Hilltoppers couldn’t be more fired up after a big tournament.
“They’re pumped to get on it,” Wilton said. “District is kind of a lull to see if we can play consistently and they played great, consistent tennis. It’s good to see. It’s good for the team coming out of it.”
In the singles draw, there was little that wasn’t working well for Townsley, except a between-the-legs shot he attempted in his semifinal against Eli Berg.
In his final against Santa Fe’s Rafael Garcia, Townsley earned a break early in the first set to go up 2-0, then survived three deuces to earn another break on Garcia’s next serve. From there, Townsley rolled.
Earlier this week, Townsley topped a tough opponent in St. Michael’s Will Matthews, which he said gave him a big shot in the arm going into the 2-4A meet.
“I felt pretty confident,” Townsley said. “St. Mike’s was a good warm-up, a good pre-match for district…I picked up some momentum, definitely and that’s the kind of competition I’m going to be looking at for state.”
In the third place match, Hilltopper freshman Nikita Belooussov upset Berg to earn his first state berth. Belooussov lost a tough, three-set contest to Garcia in the semifinals but held on for a three-set win against his teammate.
Los Alamos will send one other doubles team to the state tournament. In Saturday’s third-place match, Misha Skurikhin/Dalton Smith bounced back from its loss in the semifinals against Gallegan/Garcia to top Española Valley’s other doubles team, Jozzeb Martinez/Jeremy Romero in the third place in straight sets, 6-4, 6-2.