Tennis: Hilltopper girls win, boys fall against St. Michael's

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By Mike Cote

In their first home event of the season, the Los Alamos Hilltopper tennis squads earned a split with the visiting St. Michael’s Horsemen.The ’Topper girls, playing primarily at Mesa courts behind Sullivan Field, topped the Horsemen 6-3 in team competition, while the ’Topper boys fell to the Horsemen boys 6-3. Those contests were played mainly at Urban Park.Girls head coch Bruce Cottrell said that going into Wednesday’s contest, the pressure was on his team to top St. Mike’s, a solid Class AAA club. St. Mike’s fell to St. Pius X earlier this season, 5-4, and Cottrell said he was hoping to avoid giving St. Pius an avenue of suggestion that it should get a higher seed than Los Alamos come state tournament time.Things didn’t go according to plan for the Hilltoppers at the top of their match, either, with the doubles squads getting off to slow starts.Fortunately for the Hilltoppers, the No. 2 and No. 3 squads pulled out wins Wednesday. Emma Myers/Jeena Kim and Megan Townsley/Chelsey Smith were victorious.In the girls No. 1 doubles, Grace Kim/Brenna O’Hara fell to the top St. Michael’s squad, Sarah Banes/Charlene Pacheco.Kim/O’Hara fell behind 4-1 in the pro set at No. 1 before picking up a crucial break on Pacheco’s serve to get back into the contest.O’Hara, followed by Kim, would hold to cut the St. Mike’s edge to one game. On Pacheco’s ensuing service, Los Alamos had double break point but couldn’t close the game out. A cross-court winner by Banes following the third deuce sealed the game and gave St. Mike’s a commanding 6-4 edge.It was a struggle the entire pro set for the Hilltoppers, especially psychologically.“We lost it mentally,” said O’Hara, a sophomore, adding she thought they could bounce back after the rough outing. “It doesn’t seem like it now, but it’ll pay off at the end, hopefully.”O’Hara bounced back immediately after the loss, however, winning in straight sets against Pacheco at No. 2 singles. Kim, who played No. 1 singles during last week’s Albuquerque Academy Invitational, was unavailable for singles play.Fortunately, the Hilltoppers didn’t need Grace Kim, however, with Jeena Kim knocking off Banes at No. 1.Los Alamos won four of the six singles matches. Megan Townsley and Elyse Jalbert were also winners in Wednesday’s singles play. Jalbert went deep into her tiebreaker set with Elise Lopez, but edged Lopez out 13-11 to take the match.On the boys’ side, Matt Whicker was involved in a pair of nail-biters but came out victorious in both.At No. 2 singles, Whicker and Nathan Lopez went to a tiebreaker with Whicker pulling out a 10-8 tiebreak win. Whicker and Lopez were on opposite ends of the net again a few minutes later with their doubles partners Avery Colby and Jake Matthews.Colby/Whicker took the first short set 6-4, but Lopez/Matthews bounced right back to take the second set, 6-3.Whicker said his contests Wednesday were all about momentum.“The first set was tough,” he said. “We had to get momentum and it was tough to keep the momentum through the second set.”Despite having to bounce back from a decisive second set win by Lopez/Matthews and trailing at 6-5, Whicker put a hard volley right at Matthew’s feet following a Lopez double fault.Colby volleyed a nice cross-court winner and Whicker sent another ball right at Matthew’s feet to seal the 10-6 win.The win wouldn’t be enough for the Hilltopper boys, however, who lost four of the six singles matches — Michael Lyon at No. 6 was the only other Hilltopper to win.“It was a mixed bag (Wednesday),” Los Alamos boys head coach Giri Raichur said. “From the singles I expected a little more. We were a little lethargic. A step behind.”The loss was a disappointing one for the Hilltoppers, especially after a third-place finish at the very competitive Academy Invitational, that following up a win at the Carlsbad Invitational a week earlier.Both the boys and girls teams will have an interesting match-up this weekend. Both are traveling to Taos, although the girls are going to Taos to play the Española Valley Duals — Española Valley’s courts are not in playable condition.Los Alamos’ boys will get their first look at Taos, their primary contender for a District 2AAAA title, and the Los Alamos girls will see Farmington, a squad that some feel may be a contender for a AAAA team title.

GirlsLos Alamos 6, St. Michael’s 3

No. 1 singlesJeena Kim, Los Alamos, def. Sarah Banes, 7-5, 6-2.

No. 2 singlesBrenna O’Hara, Los Alamos, def. Charlene Pacheco, 6-2, 6-4.

No. 3 singlesMegan Townsley, Los Alamos, def. Renee Rivera, 6-2, 6-4.

No. 4 singlesElizabeth Othmer, St. Michael’s, def. Chelsey Smith, 6-3, 6-2.

No. 5 singlesElyse Jalbert, Los Alamos, def. Elise Lopez, 6-4, 1-6, 13-11.

No. 6 singlesColleen Felderwert, St. Michael’s, def. Desta Shelley, 9-7.

No. 1 doublesBanes/Pacheco def. Grace Kim/O’Hara, 8-6.

No. 2 doublesEmma Myers/J. Kim def. Rivera/Othmer, 8-6.

No. 3 doublesTownsley/Smith def. Amy Garcia/Erica Garcia, 8-4.

BoysSt. Michael’s 6, Los Alamos 3

No. 1 singlesJake Matthews, St. Michael’s, def. Patrick Raichur, 6-0, 6-0.

No. 2 singlesMatt Whicker, Los Alamos, def. Nathan Lopez, 3-6, 6-3, 10-8.

No. 3 singlesNick Salazar, St. Michael’s, def. Avery Colby, 6-3, 6-3.

No. 4 singlesXac Branch, St. Michael’s, def. Ben Havemann, 6-3, 6-3.

No. 5 singlesEthan Nadler, St. Michael’s, def. Jason Grider, 6-3, 6-3.

No. 6 singlesMichael Lyon, Los Alamos, def. Kenneth Kinderwater, 6-1, 6-2.

No. 1 doublesColby/Whicker def. Lopez/Matthews, 6-4, 3-6, 10-6.

No. 2 doublesSalazar/Branch def. Raichur/Havemann, 6-4, 3-6, 10-5.

No. 3 doublesNadler/Kinderwater def. Lyon/Stephen Townsley, 7-6, 6-2.