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SANTA FE — For one of the Los Alamos Hilltopper teams, the pre-District 2-4A tennis tournament was a formality. For the other, a good showing was an important thing to see.
Both Hilltopper tennis squads competed at this weekend’s pre-district tournament, with Los Alamos’ girls winning and Los Alamos’ boys finishing second.
Los Alamos’ boys went 2-1 at the tournament, topping both Capital and Española Valley Friday but falling to Santa Fe Saturday.
Santa Fe is the defending district champion, usurping the title Los Alamos held for the previous 12 seasons and earned the No. 1 seed at the district championship tournament which is scheduled for May 3-4.
The Hilltopper girls, meanwhile, were a perfect 4-0 at the tournament. As a consequence, the Hilltoppers locked away the No. 1 seed for the district tournament and, with that No. 1 seed, guaranteed themselves at least a postseason berth.
While clinching an invitation to the Class 4A tournament was nice, Los Alamos has much bigger fish to fry.
“We have two weeks until district, so we’ll practice on the things we need to work on to beat Academy and Farmington,” Hilltopper girls head coach Bruce Cottrell said.
Heading into the final stretch of the season, the Hilltopper girls appear poised to make a serious run at a state Class 4A title.
Los Alamos, Academy and Farmington seem to be neck-and-neck for the title. Los Alamos and Farmington have played some close team contests this season, although the Scorpions have prevailed in all of them, and Cottrell said Academy’s Chargers are solid top-to-bottom and were without their full lineup the last time they and the Hilltoppers squared off — Los Alamos won that team dual 5-4.
To start Friday’s play, Los Alamos had no trouble downing Capital on the Jaguars’ home courts. In the six singles matches, Los Alamos surrendered just two games.
At No. 1 singles, southpaw Susanna Lucido blanked Capital’s top player, Sabrina Cotto. Nasim Andrews did likewise to Helen Mann at No. 2.
In Friday’s other team contests, Los Alamos used a split-squad system. Cottrell had his top-tier players take on Española Valley while his second string, other than Sidra Hsieh-Ratliff faced off against Bernalillo.
Hsieh-Ratliff, an eighth grader who will be on the short list of candidates to take over Los Alamos’ No. 1 singles duties in 2014, hit solid shots from the baseline into the deep corner in the first set.
On the boys side, Los Alamos coach Lloyd Wilton said he thought his team was missing its focus for much of the weekend and didn’t see the kind of performance he was hoping for.
Nevertheless, the Hilltoppers still tripped up Española Valley and Capital to earn the No. 2 seed for the 2-4A tournament.
Against Capital Friday morning, Los Alamos won handily, 8-1. Eighth grader George Margeivicius played in the No. 1 slot and earned, along with four of Los Alamos’ other five singles players, a straight set victory.
Los Alamos also claimed all three of the doubles contests, with Margevicius teaming up with Thomas Bark for a hard-fought 7-5, 6-4 win in the No. 1 doubles spot.
Friday afternoon, Los Alamos prevailed against a much-improved Española Valley team, paced by No. 1 single Adrian Martinez, to set up the finale with Santa Fe.
Santa Fe, which features one of the top 4A players in the state in freshman Warren Fulgenzi, picked up the Nos. 1-3 singles, but Los Alamos’ Steven McCrory and Thomas Barks earned straight-sets wins at Nos. 4 and 5 and Los Alamos picked up a default win at No. 6 singles. In doubles competition, Chase Rochester and Forrest White had a battle at No. 2 doubles, but lost a tough-fought two-set contest 7-5, 6-3.
Wilton said McCrory has been has been playing very good tennis for the Hilltoppers and has helped cement the 4-5-6 singles, slots he said will be key to the team’s success.
“He does it by maximizing his game,” said Wilton. “We talk about that a lot and he brings it…He doesn’t get rattled or frustrated.”
Los Alamos was without some players throughout the weekend that it is hoping to have back for the district tournament.
Both Hilltopper teams, along with the rest of the teams in the state, must turn in their postseason top players and doubles teams today.
Neither Cottrell nor Wilton said they have any hard decisions to make about their lineups — which must be used, except in cases of injury or other unusual circumstances, verbatim during district and state tournaments.
Wilton said there was only one doubles slot he wasn’t 100 percent sure about heading into this weekend but after watching that doubles team perform, he made up his mind which grouping he was going with.