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TAOS — Despite taking it on the chin earlier this month at home, the top Los Alamos girls doubles tennis team was hoping to turn its fortunes around this weekend.
And it did just that Saturday by throwing the Taos No. 1 doubles team a curveball. Or more accurately, an off-speed pitch.
In a weekend that turned out to be a big one for the Hilltoper girls tennis team, the victory by Brenna O’Hara/Sarah Worland turned out to be huge.
O’Hara/Worland, both seniors, knocked off Taos’ team of Alex Cancro/Olivia Cancro in straight sets Saturday. Los Alamos’ doubles squad cruised to a 6-0, 6-1 victory and the District 2AAAA doubles championship at Quail Ridge Inn.
O’Hara/Worland and Cancro/Cancro had met earlier this month in Los Alamos, with the Cancros picking up a decisive straight-set victory, but a switch in tactics seemed to make the difference.
Instead of trying to return a lot of quick volleys against the Cancros, Worland and O’Hara elected to put a lighter touch on their hits, including executing several lobs toward the back line. The lobs seemed to throw the Cancros off their game.
“We’ve had a tendency to get out of control,” Worland said. “Before the match we had a talk with the team. When we make mistakes, we’ve just got to shake them off and come out for the next point.”
Not only did O’Hara/Worland earn the victory and the right to advance to the AAAA tournament, which starts Wednesday night in Albuquerque, the Hilltopper team of Susanna Lucido/Andrea Hengartner topped teammates Bryn Smith/Kunjae Kerdpol to get into the AAAA draw as the third place-finishing team in district.
On the singles side, Hilltopper Colleen Fitzsimons outlasted Gillian Hsieh-Ratliff for the district title, while Los Alamos’ third place finisher Gina Stroud had to come back from a set down to beat Taos’ Tessa Zangara.
Stroud nearly came back from a 4-1 deficit in the first set, but fell 7-6 (4). However, Stroud got going in the second set and went on to win the final two by counts of 6-2 and 6-3.
“That was the one we weren’t sure about, the third singles,” Los Alamos head coach Bruce Cottrell said. We knew that Colleen and Gillian had a clear shot at the championship. They’re probably among the six best players in the district...after that, how does the rest of the district break down? We felt that Gina could do it, but it would be close.”
In the 2AAAA singles final, Fitzsimmons and Hsieh-Ratliff played a nearly 3-hour-long, 2-set contest, with Fitzsimmons prevailing 6-3, 6-4.
Fitzsimmons played a steady game from the baseline, making just a handful of mistakes throughout the match, while Hsieh-Ratliff had to battle for every single point she won.
“It’s very hard,” Hsieh-Ratliff said. “When the points go on that long, it’s like ‘I’m not going to mess this up, I’m not going to mess this up.’ If you lose a big point, it diminishes your self-confidence.”
Fitzsimmons, who also played and won her match at No. 2 singles in the team final against Taos, said it was actually a little tough to get up for her contest against Hsieh-Ratliff.
“It’s tough. You have to drive all the way here to play one of your own team members,” Fitzsimmons said. “You want to play somebody you haven’t played before.”
In that contest, the average number of times the ball went across the net per point was well into the 20s and 40-plus-hit rallies were common.
In team competition, the Hilltoppers took the Nos. 2-6 singles to earn the district title over the Tigers.
Along with Fitzsimmons and Hsieh-Ratliff, Worland, Stroud and Lucido all picked up victories in the singles competition. Because Los Alamos closed out the victory in singles, the doubles contests weren’t played.