The Portales tennis team probably won’t spend much of Wednesday and Thursday wondering if the girls team can defend its Class 1A-3A championship.
That’s because the tennis program should be busy enough in individual competition. In total, nine players will represent Portales in individual competition.
“In 30 years of going, we’ve always taken some,” Portales coach Bill Wahlman said, “but this is the most we’ve ever taken. Everybody’s going but three.”
Players qualified for the state tournament individually Friday at New Mexico Military Institute by finishing in the top three in either singles or doubles.
Singles players for Portales include Chance Plummer, Nathan Acker and Bethany Self. Three doubles teams make the trip, as well — Chris Kirchner and Bryan Yeast; Hailey Quick and Rachelle Self; and Jessica Bulls and Morgan Erf.
“We’ve maybe had not as many outstanding individual players,” Wahlman said of the players representing Portales, “but everyone has been mentally tough and we played some extremely good competition. We’ve played mostly 4A and 5A schools in Texas and New Mexico.”
The girls team (19-2) will be going for its second-straight championship. Wahlman admits the final four are good teams — including 2002 champ Sandia Prep and 2003 runnerup Ruidoso.
“We start out by playing Ruidoso, and they have everybody back,” Wahlman said. “I think they have not lost a match this year. They’ll be very strong.
“They have a sophomore, Heather MacDougal, that is really strong. She’s only lost one match in the last two years, I think, and that was to Kristen (VanWettering in last year’s state title match).”
VanWettering has since graduated, but remains with Portales as an assistant coach. While her main priority is to help the junior varsity, Wahlman admits that his former No. 1 singles player has helped the varsity this year.
“She’s been an asset,” Wahlman said. “She’s a role model for the girls and her success in the last several years, I’m sure, has had a good influence on the girls.”