What marked the end of an era for a mother and son and coach and player combination may have also marked the beginning of what’s to come in the near future for the Española Valley High School tennis program.
The Sundevils hadn’t fielded a boys double tandem in the state tennis tournament since 2012, so when head coach Nancy Suazo’s son, senior Amadeo Suazo, and junior Josiah Martinez took the courts on May 8 at Albuquerque Academy in the 2019 Casas Del Rio State Tennis Championships boys doubles tournament against the Chargers’ Akshay Warrier and Graham Collis, it was a big deal and springboard for the program.
“I’m always trying to continuously build the program and, so this is only the beginning,” Nancy Suazo said. “We’ll have unfinished business next year and the year after and the year after. Hopefully we can become a standard at state every year.”
Sporting tee shirts with the slogan ‘We Belong,’ Amadeo Suazo and Martinez held their own the best they could, but the consistency, placement and ability to strike after kick serves that took Española out of position led way for Warrier and Collis to run away with a 6-2, 6-1 victory.
Nothing less to be expected from a pair apart of 16-time defending state team champions.
“We knew this was going to be a tough match and we got a bad draw,” Amadeo Suazo said. “They know how to place the ball good and they’ve been playing forever. They’re apart of 22-time state champions, so there’s not much you can do against guys like that.”
Española had its few strong moments mixed in between the methodical dominance by the Academy duo. Of their best, was in game 3 of the first set — holding Academy to 15 — and winning game 1 of the second set before the Charger pair rattled off six straight games.
“Academy is always tough to draw in the first round,” Nancy Suazo said. “They’re good from the top to the bottom and they’re well coached. I felt their consistency and placement, as well as their huge kick serves on the second serve that was not as advantageous to us – when we hit the ball back, they were able to poach or do things they needed to with the ball.”
For Amadeo Suazo, his career ended on a high note after picking up the sport in the eighth grade. Always there along the way was his mother, being the best coach she could be, even if that meant incorporating some tough love.
“It was a big deal just to get here and play in the state tournament,” Amadeo Suazo said. “It was pretty cool being my first time as an individual and going through this with my mom was pretty tough at times, because she was always hard in me, but it was pretty fun.”
“I was hard on him (because I knew he could become a good player),” Nancy Suazo added. “I’m very proud of him and to start playing in eighth grade and reach this pinnacle of playing in the state tournament and finish third in the district is quite an accomplishment.”
The day also marked another first for the program since 2012, as Sophia Sena was the first girl to be selected for the singles competition since that year when Fran Lopez did so.
Standing in Sena’s way in the 20-person bracket was none other than Robertson High School’s Bailey Duran, who defeated Sena a week prior in the third/fourth place match at the District 2-4A individual tournament by a score of 6-4, 6-2.
At state, the results closely mirrored what happened at district, the only difference was it took Duran a total of two days to finish off the 6-3, 6-1 victory.
Rain that begin to fall on May 8 postponed the match until 8 a.m. the next morning, and Duran picked up where she left off (up one set and one game in the second set) to close out the match.
Rain also played a major factor for the schedule of the team tournament, as the No. 12 Lady Sundevils were supposed to take on No. 5 St. Michael’s at 11 a.m. on the west side of Albuquerque at the Sierra Vista West Tennis Complex, but the eventual landing spot of the dual would be indoors at the Lobo Club on the Campus of the University of New Mexico.
With the rescheduled time of 5:15 p.m., rule changes were also put into effect. For the individual matches, there was no AD scoring and a 10-point tiebreaker was put in place in lieu of a third set.
However, the match didn’t reach the doubles portion, as St. Michael’s cruised to a 5-1 victory to give Española its fifth consecutive first round loss in the last five seasons making the field. The Lady Sundevils No. 6 in Sena was the lone victor.
The loss also marked the end for seniors in No. 1 Kaylinn Martinez, No. 2 Izabel Sena, No. 3 Jaden Archuleta and No. 4 Ariana Estrada.
“It was just the end to a great season,” Nancy Suazo said. “I lose those four seniors that have been playing with me since forever — sense they were freshman — so, it’s bittersweet, but I couldn’t ask for anymore from my team and hopefully next year we rebuild, regroup and push forward with Española Valley tennis.”
The match marked the fourth meeting between the district opponents this season, and the Lady Horsemen pushed to 4-0 overall against Española after previously winning by scores of 5-4, 5-4 and 5-3.
“A draw you know was better than a draw you don’t know, in some ways,” St. Michael’s head coach Jeremy Garcia said. “Me and the girls sat back at the beginning of the week and looked at what we needed to do to improve ourselves against Española.”
The improved Lady Horsemen quickly gained the momentum by winning the No. 1 and No. 2 matches after Haley Garcia took care of Martinez and Camereon Calabrese defeated Izabel Sena
After coach Garcia watched his daughter win in the No. 1 slot, he felt it was just the kind of start his team needed to get the tide to turn in their favor.
“As our 1 quickly got through her match, we knew how important that was,” Jeremy Garcia said. “I said to her, ‘You really got to set the tone for this and finish quick and finish good.’ It put those other girls at ease because there is nerves. You’re in the state tournament and with everything that happened that day (weather), it was certainly the match that helped us put the nerves at ease.”
St. Michaels showed little nerves following, as they advanced to the final on May 12, but were swept 5-0 by Albuquerque Academy — giving the Lady Chargers their ninth state championship in school history, which tied Los Alamos High School at nine apiece for the most championships in state history.
While the final certainly stung for St. Michael’s, it was the daunting monkey they got off their back in the semifinals when they cruised to a 5-2 win over No. 1 Robertson that seemed like a championship victory in its own.
“The biggest match for us was that Robertson match,” Jeremy Garcia said. “It’s been seven years since we beat them and they’re always kinda the ones to put us out. Last year, our season stopped when we played Robertson in the finals and the year before that they let us loose again and even the year before that they beat us in the first round.”