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TAOS — Going into the District 2AAAA girls tennis championship, the eight-time defending champion Los Alamos Hilltoppers were plenty wary of the Taos Tigers.
In the Hilltoppers’ and Tigers’ first two meetings of the season, they’d split the three singles matches right down the middle.
Before Saturday’s 2AAAA team final, however, Los Alamos head coach Bruce Cottrell challenged his team to do better than split, and they responded.
Los Alamos picked up five wins in singles play to close out the 2AAAA team title early, topping Taos 5-1. The doubles matches were called off due to rains.
Rain was prevalent throughout the day, causing a suspension of the district individual singles and doubles play Saturday. Los Alamos’ Grace Kim and Madeline Margevicius were stopped near the end of the second set with Kim up 7-5, 4-1.
The two would play the contest out after nearly five hours of waiting for the courts to dry following a full afternoon of rain. Kim would pick up the 2AAAA title by topping Margevicius in two straight games.
Kim, Los Alamos’ top singles player throughout the season, said that while she wasn’t all that thrilled with her own performance Saturday, she was rather impressed by Margevicius.
“She’s doing really well,” Kim said of the eighth-grader, who has been a boon to the team this season. “At the beginning of the year, she’d just crush her forehands and 60 percent of them would go in the net or go out...but she’s improved so much this season.”
Kim, a senior, actually went down 4-5 in the first set, but her senior pride, not to mention not wanting to drop a set to a teammate, kicked in and she started to get going from that point on.
Kim has had an up-and-down year that she said she would like to finish in style. She said she has a realistic view of her chances to win the Class AAAA singles tournament — which she, Margevicius and Hilltopper eighth-grader Gillian Hsieh-Ratliff all qualified for — but her main goal is for her to be happy with her final result.
“Everything’s not perfect,” she said. “I’m not satisfied. I want to focus more. I want to do better. Losing to Erica (Dimond in team duals play) is not the end of the world for me…I’m going to keep pushing myself to the end.”
The afternoon rains complicated the individual tournament. Although Kim and Margevicius were able to finish up, the Taos girls involved in tournament matches — Tessa Zangara, playing Hsieh-Ratliff for third place in singles and the doubles teams of Dimond/Jessica Christian and Alex Cancro/Olivia Cancro — all retired from their matches.
The Hilltoppers’ Nos. 2-6 singles each took straight-set victories Saturday to secure the team championship. While the Hilltoppers were favored in the bottom half of the singles lineup, the Tigers were hoping to pick up some wins in the top half, focusing on No. 2 and No. 3 singles as matches they needed to have.
O’Hara, however, took a straight-set win over Christian at No. 2, while No. 3 single Fitzsimmons knocked off Taos’ Alex Canro in two sets to help secure the victory.
Saturday’s big showing didn’t come as much of a surprise to No. 5 single Megan Townsley.
“We’ve been working hard all season,” she said. “With state just a week away, we started working that much harder. We’re kind of in the zone getting ready for state.”
With the victory, Los Alamos should now be in line for a second- or third-seed at the state Class AAAA team tournament, which starts Thursday in Albuquerque.
O’Hara at No. 2 singles came back from an early deficit in the first set to win and wrench control of the match from Christian.
Christian broke O’Hara’s serve to go up 2-1 and had a 30-0 advantage, while O’Hara was struggling returning Christian’s serve. But O’Hara came back at that point, reeling off four straight points — her forehand approach to tie the score at 30-30 seemed to shift the momentum in her favor — to knot the score at 2-2.
Christian broke O’Hara’s service game again to go back up a game, but O’Hara won three of the next four games in impressive fashion to take the first set. O’Hara would go on to take the contest 6-4, 6-3.
Fitzsimmons, a freshman who has been asked along with the eighth-graders to grow up in a hurry, won a big 6-3, 6-4 decision to further stymie Taos’ upset hopes.
Cottrell said his youngsters have been the difference this season and have come through despite losing some critical court time early in the season due to more weather problems.
Los Alamos will find out today where it will be seeded for the AAAA tournament, which starts Thursday in Albuquerque.
Here are the results from the girls District 2AAAA individual singles and doubles matches:
Amber Adams, Capital, def. Julia Beheler-Romero, Taos, 7-6, 6-0.
Tessa Zangara, Taos, def. Fracesca Lopez, Española Valley, 6-0, 6-0.
Sarah Romero, Capital, def. Merica Martinez, Española Valley, default.
Robyn Martinez, Española Valley, def. Isabel Slater, Taos, 6-3, 6-1.
Grace Kim, Los Alamos, def. Adams, 6-0, 6-2.
Zangara def. Erika Ortega, Capital, 6-4, 6-0.
Gillian Hsieh-Ratliff, Los Alamos, def. M. Martinez, 6-0, 6-0.
Madeline Margevicius, Los Alamos, def. R. Martinez, 6-1, 6-2.
Kim def. Zangara, 6-0, 6-3.
Margevicius def. Hsieh-Ratliff, 7-5, 6-2.
Hsieh-Ratliff def. Zangara, 6-3, 2-1 (retired).
Kim def. Margevicius, 7-5, 6-1.
Sophia Arellanos/Alma Martinez, Capital, def. Lisseth Caballero/Ana Martinez, Española Valley, 6-1, 6-1.
Paisley Palmer/Brooke Jordy, Taos, def. Cassandra Valdez/Selene Caballero, Española Valley, 6-0, 6-0.
Jamie Benage/Heather Walters, Los Alamos, def. Karina Franco/Elizabeth Rodriguez, Capital, default.
Andrea Cortez/Ariana Espinosa, Española Valley, def. Jessica Maestas/Monica Estrada, Capital, 6-1, 6-1.
Jessica Christian/Erica Dimond, Taos, def. Arellanos/Martinez, 6-1, 6-0.
Megan Townsley/Colleen Fitzsimmons, Los Alamos, def. Palmer/Jordy, 6-1, 6-2.
Alex Cancro/Olivia Cancro, Taos, def. Benage/Walters, 6-2, 6-4.
Brenna O’Hara/Sarah Worland, Los Alamos, def. Cortez/Espinosa, 6-1, 6-1.
Christian/Dimond def. Townsley/Fitzsimmons, 6-3, 6-1.
O’Hara/Worland def. Cancro/Cancro, 6-4, 6-4.
Townsley/Fitzsimmons def. Cancro/Cancro, 6-2, 5-2 (retired).
O’Hara/Worland def. Christian/Dimond, 7-5, 4-2 (retired).