FARMINGTON — Farmington's 31-year drought of not claiming a girls singles tennis state championship came to an end Thursday.
Sophomore Emily Nguyen captured the singles state title at the 5A tournament, beating rival Sidra Hsieh-Ratliff of Los Alamos 7-5, 6-3 to become the first Lady Scorpion to win a singles championship since Kris McLain won the title in 1986.
Nguyen and McLain are the only two individual champions in school history.
Farmington coach Pat McGrath said Nguyen and Hsieh-Ratliff dealt with a lot of nerves in the match, which led to slow starts from both girls.
"It was a lot of just trying to calm her down and telling her to hit cross court because there's more room that way. Finally, she started getting a little more aggressive. It wasn't easy," McGrath said. "She had a lot of set points she couldn't get. The match point, there were three or four times where she just needed one more."
Nguyen said her nerves played a factor in the match, but she began to relax more and more as the match went on. Then, as the matched closed in on the final few points, her nervous energy began to come back.
"I knew I needed to stay calm and keep working. I needed those last few points, and I knew I couldn't let up being that close," Nguyen said. "I just tried to stay calm and kept reminding myself that I still needed to win, and it wasn't over yet."
The match marked the third year in a row Nguyen and Hsieh-Ratliff met at the state tourney. Two years ago, Hsieh-Ratliff beat Nguyen in the third place match 6-3, 6-1, and last year, Nguyen beat Hsieh-Ratliff 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 for third place.
Nguyen said that before the championship match she thought back to last year's meeting with Hsieh-Ratliff for confidence.
"She's gotten a lot better and has worked really hard too, but I thought back to a lot of past experiences," Nguyen said. "Mostly, I just had to deal with my nerves."
Nguyen's championship was the highlight of a great singles and doubles portion of the state tournament.
Fellow sophomore Elise Ballard captured third place in singles with a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Albuquerque Academy's Rachel Homan.
In doubles, the team of eighth-grader Eliza Merrion and junior Monica Briones placed second, losing a three-set battle against No. 1 seed Katya Skurikhin and Lauryn Anaya, from Los Alamos, 4-6, 7-6, 6-1.
McGrath said the duo of Merrion and Briones surprised him and others with their performance.
"That was a real surprise," McGrath said. "They handled the pressure very, very well and played a great finals match. They were right in it. And they're an eighth-grader and a junior who before this year never played with each other."
On the boys side, Farmington's Nate Benson and Ned Merrion faced each other in the third-place match with Benson coming away with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 victory.
Karl Schneider is the sports editor for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4648.