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HomeNewsLady 'Dog tennis punches ticket to D4 team championships, state

Lady ‘Dog tennis punches ticket to D4 team championships, state

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Marissa Lopez prepares to return a shot during singles play Friday at The Mack. (Teresa Lemon - Daily Press)
Marissa Lopez prepares to return a shot during singles play Friday at The Mack. (Teresa Lemon – Daily Press)

Any coach will agree: Beating the same team multiple times is tough. And particularly in the world of District 4-AAAAA, those multiple occasions generally come in close proximity, thanks to the number of teams and marathon district schedules.

So after winning comfortably, if not decisively, over Roswell High in their district dual Tuesday, 6-3, the Lady Bulldog tennis team knew it would take their full focus to repeat Friday in the opening round of the district team tournament.

As it happened, they didn’t even need to finish out the day.

The Lady ‘Dog doubles duos of Marissa Lopez and Kabryn Conner, Melissa Richards and Baylee McKinney, and Hailey Ashe and Nicole Marquez opened the competition at the Mack Chase Athletic Complex with a clean sweep, meaning Artesia needed just a pair of singles wins to seal the deal. Those came courtesy of Ashe and McKinney, stopping play and sending the Artesia girls not only to the district championship round but the Class 5A State Team Tournament, as well.

“I thought the girls played fantastic,” coach Tim Trentham said Saturday. “We’d only dropped one singles match by the time we finished, and we were up in all the matches that were still going on, so if we’d had to play it out, it was looking like it would’ve been 8-1. We had two matches that didn’t swing our way when we played them Tuesday – our No. 1 singles and No. 6 singles – and both of them were in control of their matches when we got to five.

“We were a little nervous going in, because you never know with district play who’s going to bring what, but we got those three doubles to put them in the hole right off the bat, which was exactly what we wanted to do. I thought our girls were really ready to play. They had the fire to just go out and win.”

The Lady ‘Dogs will now travel to Goddard Tuesday to take on the Lady Rockets at 4 p.m. with the team title on the line. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, who had a pass through the first round and into state, as well, thanks to a 9-0 forfeit by shorthanded Goddard, will meet top-seeded Lovington at 4 p.m. Monday on the road for their shot at a D4 crown.

The Artesia teams both lost to their upcoming opponents 5-4 in regular district play.

“Both of them just have to swing one match the other way from last time,” Trentham said. “The boys are gung-ho and ready to go. They have their eye on the trophy, which is exciting. They have a great shot just because of the energy they’re bringing to the table. I think Lovington came in thinking they were the strongest in the district, and we kind of shocked them when we played them at home. That gives us fuel and them a little bit of trepidation going into these matches.

“The girls haven’t been back to the state tournament for two years, so just getting there was huge for us. They invested a lot of emotion into Friday, and we’re really getting to play pressure-free Tuesday. Goddard is expected to win, so the pressure is on them to take care of business. I’m just going to let my girls go in there, have fun, and play as free as they can, and if we can get through singles and into doubles with a chance, I think we can get them.”

Following the district team championships, the Bulldogs and Lady ‘Dogs will head to Lovington at 8 a.m. Saturday for the District 4-AAAAA Individual Tournament. State is set for May 4-7 in Albuquerque.

“I’m just extremely proud of our kids and our coaching staff this year,” Trentham said. “Coach (Jason) Kraft has done an exceptional job with the boys, and I really credit him with getting them ready to play at this level.

“Phillip Jowers, our assistant, has also been a huge part of our success and of building morale. He’s been able to give a new perspective to our players, and that’s helped a lot. So I just really want to thank our staff for what they’ve done this year.”

Brienne Green
Daily Press Editor

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