Daylight savings time made a surprisingly big impact on the Española Valley High School tennis team’s ability to practice.
Coach Nancy Suazo said players go out to the courts after school, and stay past official practice until dark. So, the extra hour of daylight meant an extra hour of daily practice.
The Sundevils participated in the mixed doubles round at the April 1-2 Capital Invite. An unusual format for high school competitions, the co-ed competition allowed some fun, while contributing little to overall team standings.
“It’s hard to adapt to, but it’s fun,” said sophomore Joaquin Salazar, who played on the No. 2 team with senior Daphne Talamantes.
“It’s just a fun day,” Suazo said. “It helps them to work on their doubles skills, in a kind of relaxing, fun way. Getting to meet kids from other schools, and talk, and have a good time. ”
Suazo said they practice mixed doubles, but only slightly.
“Doubles is doubles,” she said.
And they came a dice roll away from winning their four-team round robin pool.
The teams were paired based on the flights from throughout the season – coaches were not given leeway to try to create teams that might have more natural chemistry.
All players had to adjust to a different style of play, learning to balance the speed and hard hitting common in boys matches with the precision and shot location of girls.
But the top Española team, with sophomore Ian Gaytan and eighth-grader Olivia Suazo, won all three matches of the day while facing the top boy and girl players from Santa Fe High, Robertson and Capital.
Last year’s young Sundevil team had, like everyone else, an awkward season, with the start date pushed to mid-April and the whole year condensed to about six weeks.
This year, still young, they can take overnight trips for the first time since 2019, and that has led to a lot more bonding among the team. And for most, it is their first time getting to go on those trips.
“Being able to go to the big tournaments once again has been lots of fun, and a growing experience for the whole team,” Nancy Suazo said. “And it’s really nice that we have a young team, getting this first experience while they’re still young. Because it’s going to become a commonplace for them. “
“It’s so exciting,” Talamantes said. “We’ve come a lot closer, our relationships are so much better.”
She remembered 2020 when the team had nearly arrived in Farmington before having to turn around with the tournament, and ultimately the season, canceled.
Suazo mentioned as a highlight for the team’s performance in the Roswell tournament in early March, where both the boys and girls teams took third place out of nine teams. And in the season-opening Santa Teresa Tournament, they had the chance to face great competition among 16 other teams from New Mexico and El Paso.
“Our goals and expectations this year are just to improve day by day, match by match,” she said. “Next year, we’ll probably put a few more goals on them in terms of wins. But this year, our goal is just to develop that great work ethic, great attitudes. ”
In Española’s first mixed doubles team match, they battled Santa Fe to draw, winning in flights one, three and six. But in determining the final winner, a roll came up two, meaning that the Demons’ No. 2 team win became the tiebreaker.
Afterwards, the Sundevils defeated Robertson 5-1, only losing in the No. 2 team. And they finished the day with a full sweep of Capital.
The No. 3 team of sophomore Jennifer Gallegos and senior Joaquin Suazo also won their three matches on the day.
“Dub city,” Gallegos said to her coach when reporting the score of the third match.
“Dub city,” Nancy Suazo responded.
The Española girls team finished sixth the next day in more standard competition though with more limited team entries, and a strong showing from eighth-grader Etsuko Yamaguchi. The boys team finished eighth.
“A nice way to kick off the tournament for tomorrow,” Nancy Suazo said after the mixed doubles.