Girls tennis: LA grabs doubles crown, team title

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’Toppers close out Demons early, Andrews and Lucido qualify in singles

By Mike Cote

SANTA FE — Bruce Cottrell made no attempt to hide his displeasure with his top doubles team early in its final contest Saturday.
Española Valley’s team of Robyn Martinez/Arianna Espinoza took a game in the first set of the District 2-4A championship doubles match, something that didn’t sit well with Cottrell, the veteran head coach of the Los Alamos Hilltopper girls tennis team, and he let Colleen Fitzsimmons and Gillian Hsieh-Ratliff know it.
But the team got the message and turned things around in a hurry, reeling off four straight games to close out the first set. Fitzsimmons/Hsieh-Ratliff cruised from there to a 6-1, 6-1 victory and the district doubles title.
“I had to be more aggressive,” said Fitzsimmons, Los Alamos’ top player. “I was not coming to the net. Our serve-and-volley went a lot better. We lessened our unforced errors.”
Los Alamos, which has dominated the 2-4A ranks since the district was formed in 2000, won the team title, the doubles title and singles player Nasim Andrews finished as the district’s runner-up.
Andrews and Susanna Lucido both earned their way into the state 4A singles draw. Brackets are scheduled to be released for next week’s 4A state tournament later today.
This weekend’s 2-4A tournament was hosted by district newcomer Santa Fe. Santa Fe, with its team runner-up finish, will go to state for the first time in six years.
In team competition, Los Alamos topped Santa Fe for the district title 5-1 — the remaining matches were called off after the Hilltoppers had clinched the title.
Fitzsimmons and Hsieh-Ratliff, who actually faced off for the district singles title in 2010 with Fitzsimmons coming out on top, were the top seed in the doubles draw and scored decisive wins over all comers this weekend.
The team could be a factor in the 4A doubles tournament, which gets underway Wednesday at the Jerry Cline Tennis Complex in Albuquerque.
“I have high hopes for us at state,” Hsieh-Ratliff said. “In that Española match, we did better. We were making our volleys and shots. I just hope we continue to improve and do well at state.”
Andrews hung close with Bernalillo’s Olivia Layden through most of their singles final, but with the score knotted at 3-3, Layden earned the first and only service break of the second set and Andrews could never recover. Layden went on to win 7-5, 6-3 and earn the 2011 district singles title.
Layden also had to get past Lucido in the semifinals, which she did, taking a 6-3, 6-2 decision. Lucido came back in the third place match to top Santa Fe’s Cecilia Pacheco 6-4, 6-2 and earn the third berth for state.
In the singles quarterfinals, Andrews had to gut out a tough three-set contest with Santa Fe’s Lucy Redd.
Redd bounced back from a first-set 6-2 loss to take the second set 6-4. Andrews went up 5-2 in the third, breaking Redd’s service, but Redd bounced right back to break Andrews’ serve and stay alive.
Andrews and Redd went to five deuces — both players scored on difficult shots during that time — but Andrews outlasted her on her one and only break point. Redd hit a forehand into the net to close out the match.
The celebration for Los Alamos was low-key after the victories. Los Alamos hasn’t been defeated in district since joining 2-4A in 2000.
Nevertheless, Los Alamos will hope to have its mojo working this week, especially in its quest to upend Class 4A bully Farmington.
“I feel like it was really good,” Fitzsimmons said. “It was successful. It ended up better than I thought it would.”