That’s why a 21-1 record entering this weekend’s Albuquerque Academy Team Invitational was more than enough reason to take the St. Michael’s girls tennis team seriously.
“I think it does say something about us, yeah,” senior co-captain Kayli Nordby said during a break between matches Friday afternoon on Academy’s northeast heights campus.
Nordby and the rest of the Lady Horsemen had just suffered an 8-1 loss to mighty Farmington, a Class 5A heavyweight that many insiders forecast as a strong candidate for a state title run next month. If it’s not the Lady Scorpions, it’s certainly an Academy team that handed St. Michael’s another loss Friday afternoon.
The tournament wraps up Saturday with at least two more duals matches, both of which will surely come against solid teams out of 5A or 1A-4A.
“That’s really why we come to this,” said Lady Horsemen head coach Jeremy Garcia while leaning against the chainlink walls that line the 12 courts at Academy’s sprawling tennis complex. “We knew it was going to be tough for us [Friday], but it’s one of these things where we can get a lot out of it.”
Given about 15 minutes to catch their breath after losing a close contest, Nordby and Garcia were back on the court for singles play that kept them out there until about 45 minutes until they were due back for their duals match against Academy.
The team’s No. 1 singles player, Garcia is coming off a celebrated run to the singles finals at last year’s 1A-4A state tournament. It was an unexpected accomplishment, one that was just as equally celebrated for its surprise element as it was for launching her into a newfound role of expectations and perceived greatness.
She followed that run with a strong offseason program that took her to a number of regional tournaments, one of which pitted her against Farmington’s Emily Nguyen at a tournament in El Paso. The two were at again Friday, a 6-4, 6-4 Nguyen victory that saw Garcia lose a 4-1 lead in the second set.
It wasn’t until later that Garcia said she was wearing shoes that were at least one size too small.
“I just thought I could wear them and it wouldn’t be something I should worry about, but I started noticing it during doubles and never really got the chance to change,” Garcia said. “It kind of gets in your head a little, so when I started to, you know, kinda give up that lead in the second set, it was something I started thinking a lot about.”
Regardless, the fact that this weekend offers zero easy opportunities for the Lady Horsemen is exactly what appeals to Garcia. She echoes her father’s sentiments when she says the expectation this weekend is to get tested like no other time this season.
In that regard, Chavez said the chemistry is something she and Nordby haven’t had do deal with all that much.
Jeremy Garcia said he has heard other coaches rumbling about how many matches his team has played, that perhaps the Lady Horsemen have gone over the maximum allowed by the New Mexico Activities Association. He said he has had to point out that it’s not the number of duals matches that matter, but the amount of tournaments a team plays in.