Clovis High senior Tiffany Romero prepares to hit a backhand return during Lady Wildcats practice on Wednesday at the CHS tennis courts. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)
By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
Like many spring programs, Clovis High’s tennis squads got off to a slow start because of the January snows.
CHS girls coach Billie Merritt, though, likes how her team has performed in its first two outings of the campaign — a tournament at Hobbs and in a dual win at Portales.
“I’ve been really impressed with how well everybody’s playing, considering how little practice time we had in January,” said Merritt, entering her eighth year in the program.
She has previously coached both CHS squads, but this year surrenders the boys duties to Dan Replogle, who is splitting time with tennis and as a girls basketball assistant.
Clovis teams are back in action on Friday and Saturday in a tournament in Amarillo, hosted by Palo Duro.
Three of Merritt’s top returning players are freshmen — Yucca students Heather Trujillo, Shay Brady and Kalee Haragan. All saw plenty of duty last spring as eighth-graders.
“I think things are looking pretty good,” said senior Kelsey Ashmore, one of a handful of upperclassmen who will be asked to provide leadership.
“We have a lot of people in the eighth and ninth grades that should be really good in a few years.”
Other upperclassmen include senior Tiffany Romero and junior Sarah Brady.
Merritt said the Lady Wildcats have a lot of players at or near the same level, so the lineup could be shuffled from time to time. The three freshmen figure to be in the mix most of the time, she said.
“Those three girls are on the upper end,” she said. “By their senior years, it could be pretty exciting.”
Ashmore, in her second year in the sport, is slated to team with Shay Brady in doubles this weekend. She said her biggest goal this spring is to improve her singles play.
“I want to see if I can do that this year,” she said. “You feel so good when you win (in singles) because you know you’ve put the time and effort in.”
As for the boys, Replogle admits it’s been challenging to balance basketball with tennis, but he said he’s enjoying a return to the latter sport. He played in high school at Perryton, Texas, and in junior college at Frank Phillips.
Right now, the boys are working out in the mornings before school starts.
“I’m pleased with how hard they’re working,” he said. “We haven’t had a lot of success to this point. We’ve got a long ways to go to catch up with the other schools (Hobbs and Carlsbad) in (District 4-5A).”
Seniors Marlon Wright and Devin Aragon and junior Cory Young are the top returnees. Replogle is also looking for good things from freshmen Andrew North and Gerben Vanderploeg.
“I’ve seen Hobbs (in the earlier tournament) and I know how strong they are,” Replogle said. “And Carlsbad also has lots of tennis tradition.”