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Goddard girls beat Artesia

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Tati Villa (Mike Smith Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

ARTESIA – Goddard senior tennis player Leo Melendez has seen a lot during his four years in the program, and as the season winds down, he wants to leave his knowledge with those who will be filling his shoes in future years.

Tuesday, the Rockets tangled with Artesia during a district match. League action for Goddard has concluded and with a match at home against Portales next week and the district tournament coming to Artesia on Apr. 28, Melendez has never made it to state and that’s the goal in the twilight of his career at Goddard.

During last year’s league tournament, he was a junior and decided to compete as an individual. “I lost in the first round,” Melendez said.

The year before that, Melendez competed again as an individual and lost in the second round. During his freshman year, he competed in doubles with his brother Jesus Melendez, who was a senior at the time.

Four years later, Leo Melendez is the older brother to the Rocket underclassmen.

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“It was a good experience, we had good chemistry,” Leo Melendez said.

During the opening match with the Bulldogs’ Juan Montanez and Tomas Gonzalez, Melendez and his partner junior Chris Brooks defeated the duo 4-6, 7-5 and 6-4(3).

Melendez said that he and Brooks haven’t been playing as a duo for the entire season. Even though the partnership is new, Melendez feels they have good chemistry.

“We could do really big stuff,” Melendez said.

Melendez and Montanez squared off again in singles competition and the seniors had a repeat of their doubles match winning 4-6, 6-4 and 6-2(3). Artesia won the singles competition 4-2 and Goddard won the doubles competition 2-1.

During Melendez’s tenure at Goddard, the tennis program has been a revolving door. He admits the team has struggled and being there for his teammates is something he has strived for.

“What I’ve learned is when you’re there supporting each other, that’s what gives us the most wins,” Melendez said.

While Leo Melendez will be saying adios to the Goddard tennis program in a few weeks, the top two players on the Lady Rockets squad will be back next year.

Lizzy Latimer and Tati Villa are the No. 1 and No. 2 singles players respectively. As a duo, they are the defending district champions. As freshmen, they made it to the finals in league postseason play and last season, with some experience under their belts, both were able to attain victory.

Villa recalls “falling down” against an experienced Artesia duo during their rookie season. Last year, both learned from the previous season, and despite losing to Los Alamos in the state tournament, both are ready to defend the title during the upcoming district tournament.

“It’s a better experience because they always seed us against high teams,” Villa said of state.

Villa feels the experience she and her partner have picked up over the years has made them stronger and even if the duo doesn’t win, they are always finding ways to better themselves.

Like many of their fellow student athletes, Latimer and Villa have competed in other sports like tennis and volleyball. Latimer said tennis is her favorite sport; however, both are similar as the footwork is the same.

“For one, you depend on yourself and not your team,” Latimer said of her love of tennis.

When it comes to competing in doubles, Latimer likes having a partner. She emphasizes the stress level is a lot lower than volleyball. Villa concurs. “Tennis is not as stressful, they’re both really fun sports.”

Last season as a defensive specialist for the Lady Rocket volleyball team that lost to St. Pius X in the state playoffs, Villa had 26 digs when the season was said and done.

Latimer and Villa started the day in singles competition against Artesia’s top two players. Latimer defeated senior Samera Hernandez (6-2, 6-4) and Villa defeated junior Za’Leigh Pittam (6-1, 6-1). The Goddard duo scored the hat trick in doubles play, defeating the Artesia pair 6-3, 6-3.

Overall, Goddard had the upper hand over Artesia 4-2 in singles play and 2-1 in doubles play.

The Lady Rockets host Portales April 10. Two days later, Lovington travels to Goddard.

After graduating some experienced players last season, Artesia has been dealing with growing pains this year. Head coach Tim Trentham called this season, “trial by fire.”

Artesia has faced some big squads this year, having started the season Feb. 16 in Las Cruces at a tournament hosted by 6A schools Onate and Centennial. The Bulldogs and Lady Dogs also faced some stiff competition in Carlsbad during the Claire Higgins Invitational and the Cavern City Classic.

Trentham feels that the season for both of his squads has been even.

“The goal is to always win district championship for team and qualify as many individuals as you can(for state),” Trentham said.

The Artesia head coach thinks the Bulldogs will be a strong team in the district tournament. It’s a different story for the Lady Dogs and he sees Goddard as the strong favorite in league play.

“We haven’t seen Roswell, so we really don’t know where they’re at,” he said.

Artesia travels to the UFO City to face the Coyotes and Lady Coyotes on Apr. 12. Two days before that, Lovington pays a visit to The City of Champions.

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