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SANTA FE — There are plenty of questions surrounding the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys tennis team this season.
So far, however, the Hilltoppers have been able to answer those questions.
After losing five of its top six to graduation last year, the up-and-coming lineup members have come through so far for the Hilltoppers, as they did Saturday against Cleveland. The Hilltoppers took all six singles contests to earn a solid 7-2 victory over the Storm, a Class 5A team.
It was a big win for Los Alamos, which is still trying to settle in on a permanent lineup. The team’s anchor, however, is playing as good of tennis as he has through his career.
The Hilltoppers are led by top singles player Stephen Townsley. Townsley, returning for his senior year, made short work of a very solid player in Cleveland’s Joey Roback, winning 6-0, 6-0. Prior to that win, Townsley and Los Alamos’ No. 2 singles player, Nikita Belooussov, dropped Cleveland’s top doubles team 6-0, 6-2.
With five players coming in with limited varsity experience — Belooussov, a sophomore, like most of the rest of the Hilltoppers, spent most of 2011 on the junior varsity — Townsley’s presence has helped everyone elevate their games.
Los Alamos head coach Billy Wilton, in his second year, said Townsley could be a serious threat for a state individual title if he’s playing well at the end of the year.
Aside from its top singles player, however, Los Alamos looked sharp top-to-bottom against Cleveland. Steven McCrory shut out his opponent, Darren Johnson, at No. 5 singles, and Chase Rochester at No. 4 singles earned a solid 6-2, 6-1 win over Josh Melendez.
Belooussov, meanwhile, had a battle against Luis Estala at No. 2 singles, but came back from an early second-set tiebreaker deficit to win 6-4, 7-6 (4).
Wilton said he’d like to see more consistency from his doubles teams. Wilton said the teams are still missing on too many finishing shots — missed overhead chances hurt both his Nos. 2 and 3 doubles teams Saturday.
“The best thing we’re doing now is extending points,” he said. “We’re right there, we’ve just got to work on finishing.”
Also winning singles matches Saturday were Paul Graham and Dalton Smith.