The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Cats hope to score tennis upset


May 2, 2018

Clovis junior Sumito Richeson returns a ball during the Wildcats' Tuesday afternoon practice. The team heads up to Albuquerque Thursday night, and will face Cleveland in a 8 a.m. Friday match at the Jerry Cline Tennis Center in Albuquerque. The winner faces fourth-seeded Carlsbad at 2 p.m.

CLOVIS — Off Louisiana Boulevard and Interstate 40 in Albuquerque is the Jerry Cline Tennis Center, a shining 18-court facility.

It will be the Clovis boys tennis team's destination on Friday for an 8 a.m. state-tournament match against Cleveland. But just a few days ago, the Wildcats weren't sure if they'd have any more tennis destinations this spring. On Sunday, the 'Cats anxiously awaited the state tournament seedings, awaited to see if they'd even be part of them.

Finally, the suspense ended. They made it as a 10th seed.

"We're excited that we got in," Clovis' first-year boys coach Brad Heath said. "We found out around five o'clock Sunday night and we were pleasantly surprised."

Clovis just missed out on a state bid last year, so Heath and the Wildcats weren't sure if it would happen again.

"I was questioning whether the committee was going to take us or not," Heath said. "I thought they might leave us high and dry for the second year in a row. I know last year's coach thought the boys should've been there. It's really encouraging for Clovis tennis. Hopefully, it's a start of new excitement for tennis in Clovis."

The Wildcats (7-3) could stoke that excitement with a first-round victory over seventh-seeded Cleveland (7-2). "I think our district's probably a little bit tougher than theirs," Heath said. "I'm just glad that we made it."

The 'Cats should be battle-tested, having weathered the rigors of District 2-6A, which boasts tennis powerhouses La Cueva and Eldorado, the reason Clovis finished third in the district.

"In Eldorado, when you have a two-time defending state (singles) champ playing No. 3 singles, that's what you're dealing with there. ... They're really deep and they took second in our district. That's the type of culture we're trying to create here."

As its reward, Friday morning's Clovis-Cleveland winner will quickly move on to a second-round match against undefeated Carlsbad at 2 that afternoon. Considering each match is best-of-nine, that's a whole heap o' tennis in one day.

"Yeah, it will be," Heath said, "and they're up for it, they can do that."

Stamina-wise, the Wildcats might already be where they need to be. Playing a match at a time of day when some people haven't yet eaten breakfast or woken up will take some getting used to. So this week the Wildcats have been conducting 7 a.m. practices before school, preparing for early-morning tennis.

If it pays off, if the 'Cats are able to prevail against Cleveland, they will get a sneak preview of 2019 by playing Carlsbad.

"We're entering into the same district next year as Hobbs and Carlsbad," Heath said, "which has the same culture as La Cueva and Eldorado that we're in right now. I'd love for the kids to get past the first round where they could see the type of competition they're going to be playing next year."

It could be a good stepping stone for 2019 and beyond.

"I know some youngsters who are excited about being part of the team next year," Heath said. "I know some seventh-graders and eighth-graders who are excited about being part of the team already. So we'll continue to grow the sport and do what we can. I can see the next two years being really exciting."


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