Prep Newsmaker: FHS doubles duo is on a roll
Nygren and Coleman dominated the district doubles tournament
FARMINGTON — They may be the No. 2 doubles team in Farmington's tennis lineup, but Riley Coleman and Hailie Nygren are as dangerous as any duo in the city heading into the state tournament.
Coleman and Nygren won the doubles bracket at the individual district tournament on Friday and Saturday with relative ease, taking down Piedra Vista's team of Samantha Begay and Angelica Sabol 6-2, 6-3 in the final. No strangers to the individual state tourney, the two seniors are hitting their stride and feel like they are playing up to the level of their competition.
"We play better and better, depending on how good the team we're playing is," Coleman said. "Having that experience of playing in the final last year, I think, can help me help Hailie, like against Albuquerque Academy. I know we can compete with them."
Their triumph at district and their 13-3 regular season record earned Coleman and Nygren the No. 4 seed at the individual state tourney, which takes place Wednesday and Thursday in Albuquerque. FHS coach Pat McGrath said the team has what it takes to go as far as any other Lady Scorps duo.
"All three doubles teams are very close. Last time (Coleman and Nygren) played the No. 1's, they lost 8-6," McGrath said. "The last time they played our No. 3's, they won 8-6."
One advantage Nygren and Coleman have is experience. Last year, Coleman and Liza Briody-Pavlik, who has since graduated, made it to the state final in the individual tourney, where they lost to Academy's Dani Apodaca and Stacy Pollack.
That same year, Nygren got to the semifinal with Arin Coleman, her current teammate's sister.
Riley Coleman said she hated playing against her sister and Nygren, who she and Briody-Pavlik defeated in that semifinal.
"Me and Liza always hated playing Hailie and Arin because we were No. 2 and they were No. 3, so there was this pressure that we were supposed to win, but they were really, really good, too," Coleman said. "They pushed us for sure."
But all of that meant that Coleman and Nygren knew each other's tendencies even before they were paired together a couple of weeks into this season. At the start of the season, their pairing wasn't in the cards, but it was a natural fit that McGrath said he fell into while shuffling around his lineups.
"They actually didn't start together, but we started looking at where we wanted to play other people, and it just fit well," he said.
McGrath has seen a lot of talented Farmington doubles teams step onto the court in his 23 years as the Lady Scorps head coach. He said Coleman's and Nygren's different styles work well together.
"Riley takes a whole lot of chances. She poaches and is always running, and Hailie's more steady," McGrath said. "Hailie's serve is a lot faster, which gives Riley more options up at the net."
That ability to lift each other up mentally on the court complements the duo's experience.
When they played at No.1 doubles for the first time in March, Nygren admitted she let her nerves affect her play. She said she was off her game to start, but Coleman's calming effect helped them secure a victory.
At this point in their prep careers, both players have learned to scale back their emotions on the court. Coleman describes herself and Nygren as "competitive but laid back." And the two can't recall having a single verbal spat as partners.
"I know in the past I've gotten angry at my partner, and I've learned that just doesn't work, it doesn't do any good," Nygren said. "You both start getting mad, then you both start playing worse."
Now, everything seems to be clicking for Nygren and Coleman, both mentally and physically, as they prepare for some of the biggest matches of their careers.
"They're confident because they've had good results against some of the top teams," McGrath said. "Every one of our teams thinks they can win it all. You have to think like that, and they do."
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.
A closer look: Riley Coleman and Hailie Nygren
1. Favorite team?
Coleman: "The (Golden State) Warriors."
2. Favorite athlete?
Coleman: "Stephen Curry."
Nygren: "Serena Williams."
3. Favorite food?
Coleman: "French fries."
4. Favorite show on Netflix?
Coleman: "Grey's Anatomy."
Nygren: "Modern Family."
5. Favorite subject in school?
6. Least favorite subject?
7. Biggest fear?
Coleman: "Getting into a car accident."
Nygren: "Being kidnapped."
8. Do you play any other sports?
9. What is the first thing you would do with $1 million?
Coleman: "Give our coach a raise."
Nygren: "Yep, give our coach a raise."
10. Do you have any pregame rituals?
Coleman: "We all pray as a team."
Nygren: "We try to make each other laugh, too, if we're tense."