´Toppers nipped in 2-4A title match by Demons

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By Mike Cote

SANTA FE – For the first time in more than a decade, the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys tennis team won’t be going into the state Class 4A tournament as a district champ.
Los Alamos was upended Saturday by the Santa Fe Demons. The Demons won four of six singles contests during the District 2-4A finale to take a 5-4 team victory at Capital High School.
The loss snapped a 12-year winning streak by the Hilltopper boys at the 2-4A tournament.
Los Alamos led 2-1 following doubles play, but Santa Fe prevailed in two contests Los Alamos was banking on, Nos. 1 and 4 singles.
At No. 1 singles, eighth grader Warren Fulgenzi Jr., a member of arguably the greatest prep tennis family in New Mexico history, stunned Hilltopper Stephen Townsley.
Townsley, who could be among the finalists going for a state title thisseason, was up a set and had a chance to close out the contest serving at 6-5, but Fulgenzi rallied to win the next two games, take a 7-1 decision in the set tiebreaker, then dominate the third set, winning that 6-1.
At No. 4, Chase Rochester went toe-to-toe with Santa Fe’s Brandon Mutz, but Rochester fell ill early in the third set.
Both of the Hilltoppers’ top two players made it into the 4A singles draw, with Townsley topping Nikita Belooussov in the final.
Townsley, who could vie for the state 4A title this year, said he’s playing at a high level right now. His biggest plus going into the state singles championship draw, which starts Wednesday in Albuquerque, is that his service game, which he considered to be a weakness for a long time, is now one of his strengths.
“It used to be my worst part,” Townsley said after knocking off his teammate, Belooussov, in two rather leisurely sets. “It’s something I struggled with four three or for years at state. It’s finally starting to click. It only took me four years to do that.”
Belooussov actually qualified to play for Los Alamos in the 2011 tournament but had to miss out due to a personal conflict.
He had to battle through his semifinal contest against Española Valley’s Jeremy Romero, the No. 2 seed in the singles draw. Belooussov was up 4-2 in the first set Saturday morning, but Romero rallied to win 6-4.
“Once it got to 4-2, I got overconfident,” Belooussov said. “From there, I dropped my game.”
Belooussov was able to turn things around, however, taking sets two and three 6-3, 6-2 to advance to the 2-4A finale.
Los Alamos’ doubles team of Dalton Smith/Steven McCrory picked up a victory in the third-place match over Capital and will also advance to this week’s state tournament.