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Boys tennis: LA has good depth in 2008

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By Mike Cote

This season, the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys tennis team is happy with its depth.The trick is going to be getting that depth into the right order.Los Alamos heads into the Carlsbad Invitational today with a lineup that’s still somewhat up in the air, particularly on the doubles side.The Hilltoppers opened up their season last weekend at the Rio Rancho Invitational. Los Alamos split two contests with two Class AAAAA opponents, topping the Sandia Matadors but falling to the Rio Rancho Rams. Both contests were decided by scores of 6-3.In those 2008 openers, the Hilltoppers used two different sets of doubles teams. The first set was swept by Rio Rancho, the second set swept Sandia.Avery Colby is their top returning doubles player from the state Class AAAA runner-up squad. Colby was paired with Jonathan Mills, the lone senior on the team, and now Los Alamos is trying to find someone to join him.“The question is why can’t our No. 1 player play with him?” Los Alamos head coach Giri Raichur said. “That would be a logical choice, but you don’t want to use two strong players on one team. You want to split them up.”Patrick Raichur, a sophomore, is returning as the team’s No. 1 singles player, but he’s battling a nagging shoulder injury that might slow him down in the early part of the season. While his groundstrokes haven’t been affected, his serve has.At the 2007 state team tournament, Raichur suffered a leg injury during his win over Farmington’s Derrick Blackwater in the semifinal contest and missed the state title match, in which Los Alamos was blanked by Albuquerque Academy 9-0.He recovered enough to take fourth in the state individual tournament the following week.Matt Whicker, a lefty, was scheduled to get the starting nod at No. 2 singles for the Carlsbad tournament, while Avery Colby will go at No. 3. Ben Havemann, Sean Erickson and Jason Grider will round the top six this weekend.Colby and Whitaker will team up at No. 1 doubles, with Raichur/Havemann and Erickson/Stephen Townsley to follow.Last weekend, the Hilltoppers traveled with 14 players, including four junior varsity players. Coach Raichur said his main goal at Rio Rancho was to get as many players live matches as possible.This weekend’s tournament is scheduled to include teams from Hobbs, Clovis, El Paso and Midland, Texas, as well as the host Carlsbad Cavemen.Immediately following this tournament, which continues through Saturday, the Hilltoppers will get their first look of the season at Academy.Academy is the favorite again this season to pick up a state title. The Chargers have won five straight team titles and nine of the past 10, with only St. Pius X breaking that string in 2002.“Anytime, because of seeding, there are AAAA teams playing, that’s where we need to make a solid showing,” Raichur said.Los Alamos and Academy will also meet April 11. Both contests will be played in Albuquerque.La Cueva, in AAAAA, and Robertson in A-AAA along with Academy, have swept the state team titles each of the last two years and three times in the past five.Los Alamos will play its first home contest of the season March 26 when it hosts St. Michael’s.