By Eric Butler: PNT Correspondent
ALBUQUERQUE — It’s not a big field at the oldest New Mexico tennis tournament this weekend for the women’s open singles competition. Even so, the top of the draw is extremely good and it didn’t take long for three Portales entrants to find out.
Thanks to the entry of Ella Erf, Tessa Bryant and Lauren Woodward, the New Mexico Open expanded from nine to 12 competitors in its toughest division.
And, thanks to the New Mexico Open, the Portales players got some particularly difficult competition.
Erf, who will be a senior at Portales High, lost Friday to Albuquerque’s Gabrielle Otero 6-3, 6-0. The fact that Otero is only 11 years old didn’t particularly brighten Erf’s recollection about the match, but she tried to remain positive about the trip to Tanoan Country Club nevertheless.
“I didn’t play well at all. I just got frustrated with myself and started overhitting,” said Erf of the tiny Otero — who’s best asset was getting back almost every ball.
“This is my first USTA tournament. I think it will help us next year,” Erf said. “It’s good experience, always, to play good players.”
Bryant, a PHS junior drew Albuquerque’s Lauren Pick in the first round.
Pick, a freshman at Academy, was the Class 4A singles runner-up at the recent state championships. Pick bested Bryant 6-3, 6-2 Friday in their match.
“I did better than I thought I would do. But, most of the time, I just watched the ball go by,” Bryant said. “She has an awesome serve-and-receive and I had to work a lot harder than I thought I was going to have to do.”
The only Portales player on Saturday was Woodward, who got a bye into the quarterfinal round when her Friday opponent withdrew. Only a seventh-grader at Portales Junior High last year, Woodward had her hands full against Mariana Spilca in the round of eight, losing 6-0, 6-0.
Erf, for one, was well aware of how good Spilca was.
“She won the (1A-3A) singles championship every year from her eighth grade year to her senior year, now she plays D-I tennis at (University of) Minnesota. I got one game off her last year and I was excited about that,” Erf said. “We just told her to have fun and take it as an experience and learn from it. All she could do was try her best.”