The Artesia High School tennis teams closed out their 2016 regular-season campaign Thursday on a high note, sweeping Portales in a dual at the Mack Chase Athletic Complex.
The Bulldogs blanked the Rams 9-0 on the afternoon, while the Lady Bulldogs fought to edge out the Ramettes 5-4.
“The boys played real well,” Artesia head coach Tim Trentham said Saturday. “They dominated in all their matches. Portales’ boys aren’t that strong, but it was good for our guys to just go out and make sure we didn’t falter.
“It’s harder when you’re playing players who aren’t up to speed with your game, but we didn’t get caught playing down, and I thought we did a really good job of putting the matches away pretty easily.”
In No. 1 singles play, Jake Trejo bested Zachary Laurenz (6-1, 6-2), Peyton Prothro shut out Enrique Cabral in No. 2 singles (6-0, 6-0), and Artesia’s No. 3, Josiah Kraft, topped Javier Gutierrez (6-1, 6-3). Jamey Kennemur defeated Geronamo Macias in straight sets (6-2, 6-3), and Tailor Baggerly battled back from a marathon second set to best Francisco Baggerly in three (6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 6-2). Rounding out the ‘Dogs’ singles play was Juan Montanez with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Zeke Aguirre.
The Bulldogs’ doubles duos all made short work of their Ram opponents, with Trejo and Kraft besting Laurenz and Cabral (6-1, 6-3), Prothro and Baggerly defeating Gutierrez and Lopez (6-3, 6-2), and Kennemur and Montanez topping Macias and Aguirre (6-0, 6-1).
The Lady ‘Dogs’ 2-1 start to the afternoon in doubles play turned out to be crucial, as the squad battled to a 3-3 tie with the Ramettes in singles action.
“The girls did kind of get caught with that playing down mentality,” Trentham said. “We had a couple of matches go three sets that shouldn’t have, but we were able to pull out a victory.”
The Artesia girls’ No. 1 and 2 doubles teams of Marissa Lopez and Kabryn Conner, and Melissa Richards and Baylee McKinney picked up big wins against Mireya Lopez and Zamorye Cox, and Kinsey Bilberry and Timberlyn Neece, 6-0, 6-3 and 6-4, 6-0 respectively to start the day. Nicole Marquez and Brooke Norman came up short of Danielle Ruiz and Lexie Miller (6-3, 4-6, 6-4).
Lopez, Richards and McKinney then notched key singles wins, with Lopez besting Mireya Lopez (6-4, 6-0), Richards topping Bilberry (6-0, 6-1) and McKinney defeating Ruiz (6-3, 6-0). Cox picked up a three-set win for the Ramettes in No. 2 singles over Conner (7-5, 2-6, 7-5), and Marquez and Norman fell to Neece and Miller, 0-0 (5-7), 4-6 and 2-6, 3-6 respectively.
The Artesia teams will now prepare to open their District 4-AAAAA schedule Tuesday with their first of three duals. The ‘Dogs and Lady ‘Dogs will host all district duals this year due to issues with the tennis courts at Roswell High, starting with Lovington at 3 p.m. Tuesday, followed by Goddard at 3 p.m. Thursday and Roswell at 3 p.m. April 19.
“Tuesday is huge for us,” Trentham said. “I think the boys are pretty much going to determine who’s the one seed and who’s the two seed. We’ve already seen Goddard and Roswell, and we know it’s really going to be between us and Lovington on the boys’ side when it’s all said and done.
“It would be big for the boys to pull out wins as far as determining whether we have the district tournament at home or in Lovington.”
The Lady Bulldogs anticipate a greater challenge from Goddard but learned Thursday that no team can be overlooked.
“It’s important for the girls to win and get as many matches off of Lovington as we can, because we don’t want to be in a situation where we could potentially have to be playing as a fourth seed and having to go to Goddard for that first round of the district tournament,” said Trentham. “It would be good for us to open up, get those wins under our belt and get some confidence.
“We’ve seen (Lovington’s) girls two times now and beaten them both times, but you never know with district.”
Overall, Trentham hopes to see all of his athletes focused and ready for what promises to be an arduous district run.
“This district opener is big for both sides, but at the same time, we’re going to try to do what we can with the understanding that it’s not the end if we don’t do as well as we’d like,” said the coach. “It’s a long, drawn-out process for district. You play everybody, then you’re seeded, and then you have two district tournaments, so anything could happen in that time.
“But it’s always good to start off with a win and set yourself up a little bit going forward.”