Prep Tennis preview: New Faces, Big Challenges for BHS

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The Belen boys and girls tennis teams were all set to begin their season last Saturday in Rio Rancho — but Mother Nature had other plans.

The Eagles and Rams nearly made it through four matches, said BHS coach Gary Elkins, before the rains came and the two teams had to postpone their matches to a later date.

News-Bulletin file photo: BELEN SENIOR Gilbert Devlin, who played doubles at the state tournament last season, hopes to return as an individual player this season.

So instead of starting the 2014 campaign last weekend, the Eagles open up today with matches against Moriarty at the Eagles Tennis Center beginning at 3:30 p.m.

With only 10 returning from last year’s varsity squads and nine seniors on the two squads, Elkins said he and assistant coaches wife, Regina, and Barbara Grega will have a largely inexperienced squad to lead this season.

“We have a lot of boys and moved some girls up from the junior varsity, but there are a lot of players who are new to the game and are just learning,” he said. “So we’re just going to do the best we can.”

With all the new faces, experience — or lack there of — will be a factor for the Eagle boys and girls this season. Having spent most of the last month working primarily on his team, Elkins said he’s not as familiar with BHS’ opponents as he’d like.

“We’ll have to go match-to-match,” he said, “but I know that with all we’ve learned in the last month, I think we’ll be ready to compete.”

Boys No. 1 Gilbert Devlin, a senior, made the state tournament last season as part of a doubles duo with Matthew Becker, who has since graduated. But even in May, Devlin said his goal was to return to state as an individual as well as in doubles.

Megan Jaramillo, a ninth grader, is currently the girls No. 1 player.

Elkins said the two are solid No. 1s for his team.

“The experience they have is key,” Elkins said. “Megan has been playing since middle school and is very in tune and enjoys the game. Gilbert has the same approach and has a lot of experience.

“He was very disappointed when he and Matt lost in the first round, so he’s used that as motivation,” Elkins said.

Ninth grader Derek Saavedra is likely No. 2 for the boys with senior Cody Thompson No. 3 on the boys side. For the girls, senior Katee Lucero, Elkins’ granddaughter, is likely the team’s No. 2 while sophomore Mariam Mojtabao is likely No. 3, though Elkins emphasized that the team will conduct challenge matches throughout the season to keep players sharp.