Eagle’s tennis double team plays in first round at state tournament

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The afternoon was a mix of sunshine and clouds, interspersed with a few raindrops, as the Belen High School boys tennis doubles team squeezed in one final practice Tuesday before heading to state tournament play.

Julia M. Dendinger-News-Bulletin: Belen High School senior Matt Becker, left, and junior Gilbert Devlin, right, played their first round in the state doubles tennis tournament Wednesday.

Senior Matt Becker and junior Gilbert Devlin played in their first round in the tournament Wednesday afternoon against a duo from Centennial High School. Results were not available before News-Bulletin press time.

As the boys scrimmaged against two former BHS players, tennis coach Gary Elkins talked about the progress they’ve made this year and what the future holds.

“They are going up against some stiff competition and they know that,” Elkins said.

In a district with Piedra Vista, Gallup, Farmington, Miyamura and Grants high schools — all very competitive teams, Elkins said — Becker and Devlin have their work cut out for them.

But the two players have matured over the last five years under Elkins and his coaching staff and, as a doubles team for the second year in a row, the coach has confidence the two will perform well.

“They are both very studious young men, strong academically as well as athletically,” Elkins said. “Both are very coachable, they listen.

Becker has several collegiate-level scholarship offers he is considering, the coach said.

Both players said the BHS tennis coaches were great to work with and very knowledgeable.

“It’s the strangest thing — if you listen to them, you’ll win,” Becker said, laughing. “We wouldn’t have gotten this far without them.”

Coming back this year, Devlin said he and Becker had to “step up” after last year’s loss of senior players to graduation.

“We really had no choice but to improve,” Devlin said.

Over the season, Becker said both have improved their serves, as well as their angle shots and net game.

“I’m glad we made it to state this year, kind of go out on top,” Becker said. “It’s awesome for Gilbert and I to be able to go and show that we’ve been working our butts off for six years.”

Coach Elkins said this has been a “up and down” year for the team, finishing 11-8. The duo will face teams that finished with better records, but he is confident they are ready.

Singing the coach’s frequent lament, Elkins said for the most part, Belen High School tennis players only play during the season.

Most students don’t have private coaches or off-season tournaments to hone their skills. The team often gets athletes who have never played, and Elkins and his staff must start by simply teaching them the game.

“I’m not putting anyone down. It takes time to build that experience,” Elkins said. “If we had a year-round program, things would be different.

“We have great players, great facilities. I hope this program keeps going.”

BHS plays on almost new courts and adjoining field house, Elkins said, and the city of Belen courts are adjacent to them. At its own expense, the city put in a paved walkway so the student athletes can access the courts during practice and larger tournaments.

“We get a lot of cooperation and that’s is greatly appreciated,” he said.


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.