Over 26 years as Belen High School tennis coach, Regina Elkins has built a solid program. And with the loss of six top players from last year’s team, Elkins is faced with the task of building up the program again.
“We’re definitely rebuilding,” Elkins said. “We lost four of our boys, and our top two girls from last year have moved.”
Michelle Coggins and Anna Diaz, who played No. 1 and 2 singles respectively for the Lady Eagles last year have moved away. And the boys team lost to graduation No. 1 and 3 singles players Stefan Mayrhofer and Paco Perez and doubles players David Nickl and Tomas Padilla.
Still, Elkins’ program is strong enough that the coach believes her teams will compete for district titles. Elkins said Deming will be the team the Lady Eagles will have to fend off to defend the District 3-4A title they won a year ago. The Eagle boys, who were district runners-up to Silver last year, will be out to break the Colts.
“We have a very good chance of winning the district with the boys,” she said. “But the girls are going to have to work for it. If our doubles teams come through, we’ll do all right.”
Just five points are up for grabs in a tennis match — three singles and two doubles.
“We’re going to have to work hard at it with the doubles. That’s what we depend on here,” Elkins said.
Belen has long been known for its doubles teams. But this year they will rely on some inexperienced players.
For the girls, junior Kristin Elkins, who was injured all of last season, and Clarita Valdez, the veteran doubles player as a sophomore, are slated to play No. 1 doubles. Izumi Kurimoto, a foreign exchange student from Japan, and junior SooJee Clauss are pegged to play at No. 2.
For the boys, juniors Abraham Anderson and Nick Rodriguez will likely make up Belen’s No. 1 team. Junior Daniel Garcia will team with either junior Ray Feldbush or eighth-grader Paul Moya to make up the Eagles second team.
Junior Derek Lynch leads the boys’ singles squad. “He’s our gun,” Elkins said, adding that Lynch is the favorite to win the district singles championship. “He’s very much an all-around player.”
The coach said Lynch is good enough that he could make a bid for a state title. “It all depends on the draw at state, because he’s ready.”
Senior Jeremy Clauss and sophomore Charles Montoya will play No. 2 and 3 singles. “With Jeremy and Charles — they’re pretty strong singles players,” Elkins said.
It’s a different story with the girls team. Senior Devin Hughes steps into the top spot. “From there down, we’re going to have to work on it,” the coach said. Junior Hannah Castillo and eighth-grader Katrina Sanchez were slated to fill out the other singles positions.
Elkins said she’ll have more time to work with her young girls team this season. That’s because Tom Sanchez has joined the coaching staff and is working mostly with the boys.
“I can’t say enough good things about Tom,” Elkins said. “He really knows tennis.”
The Eagles open the season at Albuquerque’s Valley High School on Thursday. They’ll play their first home match of the season Saturday when they entertain Rio Rancho. Play begins at 10 a.m. at the high school and Belen Multi-Purpose Park tennis courts.
“We have a very good chance of winning the district with the boys. But the girls are going to have to work for it.”
Belen High School tennis coach