Zia netters return solid nucleus

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

PORTALES — The Eastern New Mexico University women’s tennis team has probably gotten its toughest Lone Star Conference opponent out of the way.

Now the Zias will see what the rest of the conference looks like.

ENMU lost to Abilene Christian 9-0 on Feb. 1 at Zia Tennis Complex. The Zias host LSC foes Tarleton State and East Central today.

“ACU’s always going to be tough, but I’m not sure what the other teams have,” said coach Christine Blaeser, in her 16th year at the school. “Tarleton will be tough as usual; they’re a really solid team. But I think we’ll be able to compete.”

Five of the eight players on the roster return from last year — seniors Elyse Jacques and Eric Kelly, junior Kristen VanWettering and sophomores Cassidy Bancks and Ashley Toye.

Blaeser said VanWettering, a Portales High grad, and freshman Tracy Hughes played well in an “extra” doubles match against Abilene Christian. With freshman Tracy Williams nursing a back problem, Blaeser plans to move VanWettering and Hughes up to No. 3 doubles this weekend.

The remaining member of the roster is another freshman, Eve Andrews.

“I’d just like to see how we compare with Tarleton; their whole lineup is new,” Blaeser said. “That (dual) will give me a good idea of how we’ll do in the conference.”

After Saturday, the Zias have only one more home match — March 10 against Central Oklahoma. The LSC tournament is scheduled for April 20-21 at Midwestern State in Wichita Falls, Texas.

Track — Slowly but surely, ENMU track coach Eric Boll is trying to make the Greyhounds and Zias competitive in the LSC.

The men can build around a strong throwing group led by junior Zach Gerleve, the defending LSC javelin champion, as ENMU prepares for its outdoor opener on March 9 in the Tarleton State Invitational. He’s also looking for good things from Kenyan distance runner Felix Boit and freshman Guy Kcholi (Ka-HO-lee), a 23-year-old middle distance runner who came to ENMU at the semester.

The Hounds and Zias were last in the six-team LSC last spring.

“We have some kids with the possibility of doing well in the conference,” Boll said. “Zach and Felix and Guy have an opportunity to go to the (NCAA Division II) nationals this year.”

Others who Boll said could do well are sophomore Aaron Carper and freshman Logan Capps in javelin, Clovis High grad Warren Nuckols in the hammer throw, senior Ricardo Hernandez in the distance events and junior Orlando Sanchez in steeplechase.

The women won’t have a lot of depth, but hope to build around senior throwers Nicole Valez (shot put) and Jayme Williams (discus).

“The rest of them just need to step up,” Boll said. “There are four or five other girls that have the potential to do well.”