Lady Rams seeded No. 1 in 3A state team tennis

By Dave Wagner: PNT sports writer

Portales High girls tennis coach Michelle Wallis went to a seeding meeting in Albuquerque on Sunday determined to get the Lady Rams the No. 1 slot for the Class 3A state team tennis tournament.

Mission accomplished. Now the next step is to go out and prove the seed is justified in the eight-team event, beginning this monring at Sierra Vista Tennis Complex in Albuquerque.

“I fought pretty hard for it,” the first-year coach said. “What it came down to was games — how many games did we win against the teams that are there.”

The Lady Rams drew No. 8 Ruidoso, a team they’ve already blitzed 9-0 twice this season, in today’s 8 a.m. quarterfinal opener. If they win, they advance to an 8 a.m. semifinal on Saturday against the winner between No. 4 Lovington, a district rival, and No. 5 Santa Fe St. Michael’s, Wallis’ high school alma mater.

Portales, which lost to Sandia Prep in last year’s finals after winning state titles in 2003 and 2004, expect to win with junior Ella Erf at No. 1 singles and sophomore Bethany Self at No. 2, and with those two at No. 1 doubles. Both are unbeaten this season in singles and as a doubles team.

The key will be how well they do after that.

“What it’s going to come down to is our doubles teams have to play to their full potential,” said Wallis, who took over when longtime coach Bill Wahlman retired after the 2005 season. “They have to show up ready to win.”

Sophomores Kassandra Short and Tessa Bryant are at Nos. 3 and 4 singles and at No. 2 doubles. Junior Jayna Nance and sophomore Tara Thron fill out the Nos. 5 and 6 singles positions and No. 3 doubles.

Short, who is making her third consecutive trip to state, said she was happy to see the Lady Rams get the top seed.

“Me and Tessa are pretty strong,” she said. “I’ll work hard no matter what to help my team excel.”

Short said she and Bryant have become more comfortable in doubles as the season has progressed.

“We got closer as partners and played a lot better together,” she said. “I might be a little nervous (about state), but I’ll be ready.”

Assuming the Lady Rams win today, Wallis expects a tough match in the semifinals. Portales split late-season duals at Lovington, while she said St. Michael’s is a capable team.

Bosque, the No. 2 seed, likely will meet Sandia Prep in a matchup of district rivals in the other semifinal. Wallis said Bosque has beaten the Sundevils, the No. 3 seed, three times this spring, all by 5-4 scores.

“If we can win in the (semifinals), we’ll have momentum going into the finals,” she said.