On Monday, two days after the Belen High School boys tennis team lost its chance for a berth in the Class 4A state tennis tournament, head coach Regina Elkins was still trying to come to grips with her emotions.
“I don’t know if I’m sad or disappointed,” she said. “There is no doubt: our boys team had the depth, and they had the talent, and they are the better team in the district.”
Better than district champion Deming, though the Eagles lost a critical home match to the Wildcats, 5-4, on April 19. Better than district runner-up Silver, though the Eagles lost to the Fighting Colts, 5-4, in Silver City on Saturday.
But injuries did in the Eagles. “I don’t think that’s an excuse. It’s just a fact,” Elkins said.
Belen played without its best player, junior Derek Lynch, against Deming because Lynch was experiencing soreness in his shoulder. And a knee injury junior Nick Rodriguez suffered during last Saturday’s match may have been the difference in the match with Silver.
“He actually told me something popped,” Elkins said of Rodriguez, who had knee surgery performed last fall. “So we tried to get him off the court. He would not default. That’s his strong personality.”
Rodriguez hung in there, but lost the first set to Theo Burgthal, 7-5, in a tie-breaker. N-Rod stubbornly stuck out the second set but lost, 6-1.
Belen scored three points in singles matches and one in doubles.
Despite his wounded wing, Lynch beat Daniel Shelly, 6-0, 7-5, in the No. 1 singles match. “He says he’s feeling better, but you could see that it was still bothering him,” Elkins said of her star player.
At No. 4 singles, Charles Montoya came back to win the second and third sets, 6-1, 6-4, after losing the first set in a tie-breaker. Daniel Garcia won his No. 6 singles match in straight sets. And Lynch and Montoya rallied to win the No. 1 doubles match, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5.
The Belen boys finished their season with a 1-2 record — good enough for third place in the district standings. Deming won the league title with a 3-0 record, and Silver, at 2-1, captured second place and the district’s other berth in next week’s state tennis tournament.
The good news is the Belen boys should return their entire team next year – and they’ll have a full year to heal.
Belen’s girls tennis team was hampered by injury as well. Freshman Clarita Valdez did not make the trip to Silver City due to a shoulder injury that is expected to keep her out the rest of the season. Without Valdez in the lineup on Saturday, the Belen girls lost to the Lady Colts, 6-3.
Katrina Sanchez and Izumi Kurimoto were Belen’s only singles winners at No. 5 and No. 6 respectively. Sanchez and SooJee Clauss teamed together to win the No. 3 doubles match.
The Lady Eagles finished the season without a district win.
“They’re young. They need a lot of mental work,” Elkins said. “They play well in practice, but they get intimidated in matches. They know how to play, but they just can’t seem to get it all together.”
Belen will host the District 3-4A tournament on 10:30 a.m. Saturday. The top three singles players and top two doubles teams will qualify for the individual state tournament.
Lynch will be the top seed in the boys singles division. The boys will play at the Belen Multi-Purpose Park, and the girls will be at the high school courts.