Lady Rams rely on Self to defend title

ALBUQERUQUE — Things didn’t look good for the Portales Lady Rams tennis team Saturday morning.
But it’s amazing how a prayer can turn things around.
Portales’ Rachelle Self had just dropped the second set — a set she could have won — to Sandia Prep’s Kathryn Short during the 1A-3A girls tennis team championships at Albuquerque Academy.
The Lady Rams were tied 2-2 with Sandia Prep, meaning the winner of the Self/Short match would give their team the championship.
“I just prayed a lot,” Self said after the match. “I guess that carried me through.”
Self went on to win the third set and Portales left Albuquerque with its second straight team title, and third in four years.
“This feels so awesome,” said senior Hailey Quick, who along with Self won the Class 1A-3A girls doubles championship on Thursday. “I will totally be able to leave on good terms. This team worked really hard.”
They had to work hard. Sandia Prep was good.
One of the state’s and region’s best players — Sandia Prep’s Mariana Spilca — had little trouble handling Quick in the No. 1 singles match on Saturday.  Spilca won 6-0, 6-1. Spilca won the Class 1A-3A girls singles title on Thursday.
“She (Spilca) is a great player,” Quick said. “I’m just glad I got a game off her.”
Spilca said her game was clicking.
“I was trying to serve and volley,” she said. “I’m not really a net player.”
While Sandia Prep took the first singles match, they started the day off down one match, because one of their doubles teams had to default.
After Portales’ Morgan Erf defeated Sandia Prep’s Ellen Madden 6-4, 6-0, things looked good for the Lady Rams.
But Sandia Prep’s doubles team of Rebecca Younger and Mackenzie Yates defeated Portales’ Jessica Bulls and Kaycee Quick, 3-6, 6-2, 6-1.
All eyes turned to Self’s match against Short.
“I knew I had to win,” Self said. “I was trying to block everything out and focus on what I had to do.”
Self had no problem with Short in the first set as she won it 6-4. She went up 3-0 in the second set, but Short made an impressive comeback and took the set 7-5.
But Self came out re-energized for the third set. She was able to consistently hit smart ground strokes and capitalized on a few of Short’s mistakes.
She won the third set 6-4. Seconds after her victory her teammates floored the court and hugged her.
“This is a very neat way to end my season,” Self said.
Her father, Rod, agreed.
“This wears you out,” he said. “You try to sit down and be calm and then 10 seconds later you are jumping out of your chair. This is great for the team.”
Rod Self said his daughter has been coming to state since her eighth-grade year. She is a junior and has a 13-1 record at State.
“I don’t know how she does it,” her dad said.
The Lady Rams’ coach Bill Wahlman is just glad Self found a way to win.
“She (Self) was able to gain a little momentum in the third set,” he said. “Playing against 4A and 5A New Mexico and Texas schools has helped our mental toughness.”