The last time the boys tennis teams from La Cueva and Eldorado were sharing courts, the differences between the two were minuscule.
That was not the case Saturday.
The Bears won a crucial match at No. 3 doubles, and had victories in singles at No. 2, No. 4 and No. 6 as La Cueva won the Class 6A state championship, 5-1 over the Eagles on a warm afternoon at the Jerry Cline complex.
“It was a great way to go out as a senior,” said Kyler Kunzler, who won his match at No. 2 singles over Elias Samaha and also teamed with sophomore Julian Lee to win in straight sets in No. 1 doubles. “I couldn’t have asked for a better team this year.”
It was the Bears’ fourth consecutive state championship.
“The kids stepped up tremendously,” La Cueva coach Dick Johnson said. “Of all my 27 years of coaching at La Cueva, this year was the most fun.”
The match opened with doubles. The No. 3 team for the Bears, Jason Lyons and Jonah Yi, won a tense 7-6, 7-6 match, giving La Cueva a 2-1 overall lead on the third-seeded Eagles.
Once the Bears clinched three singles matches (Kunzler, Lyons and Grant Hendrickson at No. 6), everyone else’s match was stopped. That included Lee at No. 1 singles, who was engaged in a tight battle with the state individual champion, Eldorado’s Michael Mounho.
“We had a good team at the beginning — not completely solid — but at state, we stepped it up,” said Lee. “We knew what to expect (from Eldorado), and we just brought our games.”
La Cueva beat Eldorado 5-4 in a district match about a month ago, with the teams winning nearly an identical number of games and sets.
The Albuquerque Academy boys on Saturday won a state title for the 15th consecutive season. The Class 5A top-seeded Chargers made very quick work of No. 2 Los Alamos, winning 5-0 at Jerry Cline.
St. Pius in 2002 was the last team in the second-largest division to win a blue trophy.
Academy swept all three doubles matches — the talented Hootman brothers, Coleton and Hunter, won a grueling match at No. 1, prevailing 7-5 in the third set — and added two quick victories in singles to close out the Hilltoppers. Academy also went 19-0 in singles and doubles this weekend in their three team victories.
Robertson had three tight team victories at state. In the final, the Cardinals edged New Mexico Military 5-4 at Academy to capture the 1A-4A title. NMMI was trying for its fifth championship in the last six seasons.
Eldorado, Los Alamos and Robertson, all seeded No. 1, won state titles. It was Robertson’s fourth straight championship. The Eagles and Hilltoppers both last won it all in 2013.
The Eagles completed a spectacular week at Jerry Cline. Carmen Corley won individual state singles, Taylor Jones (a transfer from Hobbs) and Ivana Corley won the state doubles crown, and on Saturday, Eldorado blitzed No. 2 Albuquerque High 5-0 in barely an hour.
The Corleys and Jones won singles matches, as did Allison Romero (who was third in individual singles earlier in the week) and Kiersten Garner. Garner supplied the clinching point in her 7-5, 6-2 victory.
“It was one of the best feelings I’ve ever experienced,” said Garner. “Helping us win state made it that much more special.”
Eldorado is expected to return largely intact for 2018, as well. Both Corley sisters are returning, as are Jones and Romero.
Ivana Corley, a junior, completed the sweep she said she wanted. She now has state titles in individual singles and doubles, and with the team. Jones, a newcomer, said she was thrilled to be along for the ride.
“I chose Eldorado for a reason: to help them win a state title,” said Jones. “It was great to be part of the team to make history.”
In Class 5A, Los Alamos won 5-1 over No. 2 seed Farmington. Robertson defeated No. 2 Mesilla Valley, 5-2, in the 1A-4A finals.
Click here for team tennis brackets.