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SANTA FE — Prior to the start of the pre-District 2AAAA duals Saturday, Los Alamos Hilltopper girls tennis coach Bruce Cottrell joked he was starting his elementary school team.
While not exactly accurate, many in the Hilltoppers’ top six were still in eighth-grade, as many of his veteran players took Saturday off to prepare for Los Alamos High School’s prom.
Starters for Los Alamos Saturday included Colleen Fitzsimmons, Madeline Margevicius and Gillian Hsieh-Ratliff, all mid-schoolers.
Los Alamos finished Saturday’s playoffs splitting its contests, losing to Taos 9-0 and topping Capital, which had only four players available Saturday, 7-2.
The pre-district tournament is held in large part to determine seeding for the 2AAAA tournament playoffs.
Because of Saturday’s finish, the Hilltoppers may not get the top seed for the 2AAAA tournament, which starts May 1, but it doesn’t appear that their seeding will make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things. Neither Capital nor Española Valley seems likely to knock out either the Hilltoppers or Taos’ Tigers at the district tournament this season. Bernalillo, the other school apportioned to the district, doesn’t field a tennis team.
Taos, however, poses a major threat to Los Alamos in 2AAAA, a district Los Alamos has dominated the entire decade.
Without some key personnel Saturday, such as Grace Kim, Brenna O’Hara and Megan Townsley, many of the younger Hilltoppers had to move up in the ranks. Against a formidable opponent such as Taos, it was a tough hurdle to try to overcome.
“It was mostly for fun and experience,” Hsieh-Ratliff said of the Taos contest. “Playing Taos and playing higher was a challenge, but I learned some new things. It was a good experience for all of us.”
The Tigers swept the contest — with only Margevicius at No. 2 singles able to force even a third set — although some of the matches were pretty hotly contested.
At No. 1, Fitzsimmons hung with Taos’ Erica Dimond throughout the first set, holding serve to tie Dimond up at 2-2 and earning three break-point chances in the following game.
Dimond, who has this season emerged as possibly the one to beat for the district singles title — should she choose to compete for it at the district tournament — held off Fitzsimmons’ break chances, hitting a big forehand winner to force the third of what would end up being five deuces at 2-2. Dimond would fire an ace to hold her service game and take a 3-2 edge.
Fitzsimmons fought through a break chance to tie the score at 3-3, but three ace serves to open the next game gave Dimond the momentum she needed to carry the set.
At No. 2 singles, Margevicius rallied from a 4-3 second set deficit, crushing a forehand right at the ankles of Taos’ Jessica Christian to break her serve and go up 5-4.
Margevicius, who was playing up from No. 4 when the two teams played Tuesday in Los Alamos, played an aggressive match against Christian, winding up for many big forehands throughout the match and making several approaches to the net, often to counters Christian’s approaches.
Margevicius held her final serve to win the second set 6-4, but Christian outdueled her in most of their numerous long rallies in the third set to take the match.
Following his team’s victory, Tiger veteran head coach Kurt Edelbrock said he was mostly concerned Saturday with seeing his players work on some techniques he’s been trying to install.
“Most importantly, I want us to learn something from (Saturday),” Edelbrock said. “If we don’t do that, it’s a wasted day.”
Edelbrock said his team and Los Alamos with its top players are competitively within a hair’s breadth of each other. Cottrell concurred.
At Tuesday’s match in Los Alamos, the two teams played to a 4-4 draw. The decisive ninth match, a doubles contest between O’Hara/Sarah Worland and Alex Cancro/Olivia Cancro, which was headed into a third set, was called due to darkness. Los Alamos won a late March contest at Taos 6-3, but that dual came down to the final two doubles matches.
Generally, Los Alamos has had no problem relying on the younger members of its squad this season, particularly Margevicius and Hsieh-Ratliff, who together have won some big doubles contests for the Hilltoppers this season.
Both Margevicius and Hsieh-Ratliff were quick to point out that Cottrell didn’t express a lot of confidence in the eighth-graders heading into the season before their win at No. 3 doubles in a tournament at Carlsbad.
“We’ve gotten a lot better in terms of our partnership,” Margevicius said. “Our communication’s gotten a lot better and our volleys have gotten a ton better. Once we practice together more, we’ll get a lot better.”
Against Capital’s duo of Erika Ortega/Alana Martinez, Margevicius/Hsieh-Ratliff didn’t have its best performance but played well enough to take a straight-set victory. The match was knotted at 4-4 in the first set but Margevicius/Hsieh-Ratliff wouldn’t surrender another game for the balance of the match.
Both of them also won their singles matches, as did Fitzsimmons, who blanked Capital’s No. 1 Erika Ortega.
Fitzsimmons kept the ball up against Ortega, negating her pushes toward the net in the match.
With just four players available, Capital had to default three matches to Los Alamos. On the court, Los Alamos won four of the six contests played.
“I had a good feeling (Saturday),” Hsieh-Ratliff said. “Capital’s a good team. They have wonderful serves, but I think we had a good chance against them.”
Los Alamos was scheduled to play Española Valley Friday, but Friday’s contests were wiped out by snow.
Taos 9, Los Alamos 0
No. 1: Erica Dimond, Taos, def. Colleen Fitzsimmons, 6-3, 6-3.
No. 2: Jessica Christian, Taos, def. Madeline Margevicius, 6-1, 4-6, 6-1.
No. 3: Alex Cancro, Taos, def. Gillian Hsieh-Ratliff, 6-4, 6-3.
No. 4: Olivia Cancro, Taos, def. Andrea Hengartner, 6-0, 6-3.
No. 5: Tessa Zangara, Taos, def. Gwynn Cunningham, 6-0, 6-0.
No. 6: Isabel Slator, Taos, def. Stephanie Djidjev, 6-1, 6-1.
No. 1: Dimond/Christian def. Margevicius/ Hsieh-Ratliff, 6-3, 6-1.
No. 2: Cancro/Cancro def. Fitzsimmons/Hengartner, 6-1, 6-0.
No. 3: Zangara/Slator def. Cunningham/Tess Daughtor, 6-0, 6-1.
Los Alamos 7, Capital 2
No. 1: Fitzsimmons def. Erika Ortega, 6-0, 6-0.
No. 2: Margevicius def. Alana Martinez, 6-0, 6-2.
No. 3: Hsieh-Ratliff def. Amber Adams, 6-2, 6-1.
No. 4: Sarah Romero, Capital, def. Cunningham, 6-0, 6-4.
No. 5: Los Alamos, default.
No. 6: Los Alamos, default.
No. 1: Margevicius/Hsieh-Ratliff def. Ortega/Romero, 6-4, 6-0.
No. 2: Adams/Martinez def. Fitzsimmons/Djidjev, 6-2, 6-0.
No. 3: Los Alamos, default.