By Dave Wagner
Patricia Gallegos was happy about qualifying for Class 5A state singles tennis competition, and at the same time she felt sadness.
That’s what having to beat a teammate — and your doubles partner, no less — does to you in what amounts to a winner-take-all scenario.
The Clovis High sophomore rallied from match point at 3-5 in the second set, then rallied again in the third set to defeat CHS junior Andrea Curry 6-7 (4-7), 7-5, 6-4 Saturday in the girls third-place singles match of the District 4-5A tournament at the CHS tennis courts.
“It’s always kind of hard to play one of your teammates,” said Gallegos, who will take a 13-7 record into a first-round match at state next Wednesday in Albuquerque. “Andrea’s improved a lot over the year. Beating the No. 1 girl from Eldorado (Amy Baklini, which Curry did in a quarterfinal matchup), I knew she was going to be fighting me.”
Gallegos was the lone Clovis qualifier in the two-day event. Defending 5A state champion Sarah Baker of Hobbs took the girls singles title with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Carlsbad’s Tiffany Graham.
Baker, who recently signed to play tennis at New Mexico State, lost just three games in three matches and is making her fifth consecutive trip to the state tournament. She finished second as both a freshman and sophomore before winning it last year.
“I’m pretty proud of her,” said her father and coach, Paul Baker. “She’s won five straight district singles titles now; she’s had an awfully good run.”
Baker said his daughter has had to work for what she’s accomplished.
“This district is such high quality, you’re going to get pushed pretty good,” he said.
In boys singles, Carlsbad’s Shawn Baker beat defending 5A state champion Alex Hagstrom a 6-0, 6-4 in the championship match, while Eldorado’s Shawn Parsons also advanced by beating teammate Greg Wilhelm 6-3, 7-5 for third place.
In doubles, where only the finalists advance, Hobbs swept both boys and girls competition.
Top-seeded Brittany Arnold and Melinda Williams took the girls title with a 6-3, 6-3 win over second-seeded Morgan Clarke and Megan Loving, while the boys crown went to No. 1 seed Ben Parra and Paul Quintela with a 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 victory over No. 2 Eric Delacruz and Andrew McDaniels.
Gallegos was able to keep her composure when things looked bad against Curry.
“I was in trouble, but I have the determination to come back,” she said. “My dad says for me to take it one point at a time and not be concerned with the score.
“I just told myself that I wanted to go to state. I worked real hard for this.”
As for Curry, CHS coach Billie Merritt said the more that’s on the line, the tougher she gets.
“Andrea plays well under pressure,” Merritt said. “She almost plays better when it’s do-or-die.”
The Lady Wildcats’ third entry in girls singles, senior Jessica Messer, lost to Graham in the first round.
In doubles, juniors Lauren Garrett and Molly Price rallied for a three-set win over Carlsbad’s Cammy Walker and Chelsea Hager in the first round before losing to third-seeded Nicole Stansifer and Ashten Pick of Eldorado 6-2, 6-1 in the quarterfinals, and freshman Emily Logsdon and sophomore Britny Johnson lost a first-round match to Eldorado’s Kristin McElroy and Hanna Useem.
With Baker and Graham graduating this year, the door may be open for Gallegos and Curry in 2004, Merritt said. She also has high hopes for her top boys’ player, junior Jared Cole, who was seeded third coming in but lost in a three-set quarterfinal match against Parsons.
“I think Andrea and Patricia stand a good chance to play for first and second (in the district) next year,” Merritt said. “And I expect Jared to make state next year. He has really improved, and I think he’s planning to work hard this summer.”
Cole split sets with Parsons before play was halted by darkness on Friday night, then lost 6-4 in the third set on Saturday morning.
“I knew Jared was going to have to play tough,” Merritt said. “But he played well, and I think he did the best he could’ve done.”
Senior Lukas Cash also won a first-round match for the Cats, beating Manzano’s Branden Behne in three sets, before losing to Baker. Junior Mark Gant in singles and both Cats doubles entries were eliminated in the first round.