Tennis teams advance to 4A playoffs

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By Mike Cote

SANTA FE — Following top-two finishes at last weekend’s District 2-4A championship matches, the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys and girls tennis teams will move on to play in this week’s state Class 4A championship.
Los Alamos’ girls won their 14th straight District 2-4A title and earned the No. 2 overall seed in the team tournament, which commences Friday at the Jerry Cline Tennis Center in Albuquerque.
Meanwhile, the Hilltopper boys finished as the runner-up in the 2-4A tournament behind Santa Fe and were seeded No. 9 in the team tournament.
Prior to the team tournament, however, Los Alamos will take part in the singles and doubles championship draws. The singles and doubles contests will be Wednesday and Thursday, also at the Jerry Cline center.
Among the Hilltoppers’ entries into the tournament is the girls top doubles team of Madeline Margevicius and Gillian Hsieh-Ratliff. Margevicius/Hsieh-Ratliff topped teammates Colleeen Fitzsimmons/Susanna Lucido 6-2, 6-1 to claim a second consecutive district title Saturday.
The district championship match looked like it might be a tight one after Fitzsimmons/Lucido rallied from an early deficit in the first set.
Hsieh-Ratliff was serving for the defending champs, who were up 2-0 early, but Fitzsimmons/Lucido but Fitzsimmons had a big volley winner at the net, which was followed up on the next point by a winning volley from Lucido.
After Fitzsimmons/Lucido broke Hsieh-Ratliff’s serve, Fitzsimmons held serve to tie the score.
But some sharp play at the net from Margevicius/Hsieh-Ratliff for the balance of the set proved to be the difference.
“It went really well,” Margevicius said. “Our serves were definitely on and both of us have been working on our volleys. We got a lot of volleys in. We were solid and we didn’t make as many errors as we have in the past. That’s important.”
Margevicius/Hsieh-Ratliff, the Nos. 1 and 2 singles players on the Hilltoppers’ team roster, were awarded the No. 3 seed in the doubles draw, one seed ahead of Fitzsimmons/Lucido. The third Hilltopper team playing for a playoff spot, Hannah Cunningham/Laura Whicker, also squeezed in as the final 2-4A entry, downing Savannah Garcia/Amanda Maestas of Española Valley in straight sets to earn its way into the playoffs.
On the boys side, two Hilltopper doubles teams made it into the 4A draw. Nikita Belooussov/Dalton Smith advanced to the 2-4A championship match, but was knocked off by Santa Fe’s Warren Fulgenzi/Brandon Mutz, 6-1, 6-1.
Nevertheless, Los Alamos’ top doubles team felt good about its run in the tournament and getting to advance to state.
“We just have to prepare mentally,” said Smith, a senior, who said he felt “groovy” to be advancing to state following the 2-4A doubles final. “We have to prepare ourselves for the tournament. The tides of matches will ebb and flow. We’ve just got to ride those and have fun.”
Belooussov/Smith was awarded the No. 6 seed in the draw. Fulgenzi/Mutz picked up the top 4A seed.
Also for Los Alamos, Daniel Dahl/Stephen McCrory, another pair of seniors, came back from a loss to Belooussov/Smith in the district semifinals to drop Antonio Garcia/Daniel Velasquez of Española Valley.
In singles competition, Los Alamos eighth grader Sidra Hsieh-Ratliff advanced to state following her runner-up finish last weekend. Hsieh-Ratliff defeated both Veronica Casados of Española Valley and Rachel Layden of Bernalillo in straight sets before falling to top-seed Greta Miller of Santa Fe, 6-3, 6-2 in the final.
Nasim Andrews claimed the other singles slot from 2-4A, topping Layden in the third-place match Saturday to advance.