By Kevin Wilson: PNT Staff Writer
A lot of things have changed for the Portales tennis teams, but several things have not as the Lady Rams hope to take the next step.
Last year’s state runnerup boasts the state’s No. 2 singles player, but will still adjust to a new roster and a completely different style of preparation with new coach Michelle Wallis.
Wallis takes over this year following the retirement of longtime Portales coach Bill Wahlman, who had recently coached the Portales girls to three of the last four Class 1-3A girls’ team titles, along with a third-place finish and a state runnerup finish last year to Sandia Prep.
Wade Fraze, who is currently working with the girls’ basketball team as an assistant, will be the boys coach when the basketball season concludes. Until then, Wallis will coach both teams.
The Portales squads have a scrimmage Saturday against St. Michael’s and Feb. 25 against Clovis, both at home.
With a 17-4 record last season, winning is something Wallis’ players are used to. What they’re not quite used to is the new conditioning program for the tennis squad.
“We do a lot of conditionining,” Wallis said. “Our practice is structured.”
Wallis said the team plays Mondays and Wednesdays for practice, does conditioning Tuesdays and Thursdays and lifts weights on Fridays. It’s a much different style than Wahlman, who concentrated more on tennis fundamentals.
Wallis said she felt there was nothing wrong with Wahlman’s coaching style, and it’s left Portales with plenty of great players.
One of those players is Erf, who lost in last year’s semifinals to five-time state champion Mariana Spilca of Sandia Prep. Erf is now ranked No. 2 in the state in Class 1-3A, and she feels it’s an honor and a challenge.
“I’m happy about it, but it motivates me to work harder and get No. 1,” Erf said. “Obviously, my goal is No. 1 in state this year.”
Erf has been part of two state champion teams with Portales in 2003 and 2004, and she was the libero on this year’s state champion volleyball team. Erf said her experience with volleyball helped her adjust to the conditioning program.
“I think for some of the players, it was hard to adjust,” Erf said. “Coming from volleyball, it’s easier. It’s a good change.”
Erf is joined on the court by Tara Thron, Tessa Bryant, Kassandra Short and Tamara Stroik. There are also two players from last year’s squad — Kaycee Quick and Bethany Self — who are playing basketball.
Whatever teammates she has, Erf feels good about the season coming up.
“We’re all really hard workers,” Erf said, “and we all want to work hard and be the best.”