Sara Bulls knows what it takes to be a high school tennis state champion — and in her first coaching job, she hopes to pass on the knowledge and skills to the 2008 Lady Rams tennis team.
Bulls is a two-time Lady Ram doubles state champion, winning back-to-back titles in 2002 and 2003, before playing tennis at Eastern New Mexico University under longtime Zia coach Christine Blaeser.
“It’s a lot different than I thought it would be,” Bulls said. “Especially with the JV. A lot of these kids haven’t even picked up a racket before. So I’m having to learn how to teach them to play tennis.”
The Lady Rams took the consolation championship (fifth place) at their first tournament of the season in mid-February at Goddard High School in Roswell.
“We did really good since it was our first (tournament),” senior Cassandra Short said. “It’s hard to get into shape, we’re not there yet but we will be.”
According to the first-year Lady Rams tennis coach, she draws inspiration and influence from former Portales coach Bill Wahlman and Blaeser.
“As any player who’s ever played for coach Wahlman, we always watch the mental toughness video,” Bulls said. “It was made forever ago, and the boys were wearing the short-shorts but its message is still really great.”
“As corny as that video is, its got a really great message,” Bulls said.
As for Blaeser.
“I’m trying to show the things that she showed me that improved my game,” Bulls said.
“We love (Coach Bulls). She played for a long time for Mr. Wahlman so she’s a good coach,” Short said. “She was there. She was young at one time.”
With three seniors and four sophomores, the new coach has an interesting mix of experience and youth to work with.
“We’ve got a very strong team,” Bulls said. “They’re young and they’re a little bit more inexperienced, so that makes them a little bit more open to what I have to contribute.”
Seniors Bethany Self and Tessa Bryant will join Short from basketball season. Shelby Lucero, Leandra Montoya, Lauren Woodward and Marissa Best round out the squad.
Self and Bryant must be seeded into the group and they aren’t expected to play in Portales’ next match, Tuesday at Roswell High.
The Portales girls was runnerup to Bosque School at last year’s team state tournament competition, while senior Ella Erf earned third place in the singles state tournament.
Short and Bryant teamed up to reach the state doubles quarterfinals, and Bulls sees big things from the two seniors this season.
“(I’m) very, very confident,” Bulls said. “I’m expecting us to go to state, I’d be very disappointed if we didn’t.”
Following the Roswell and Ruidoso matches, the Lady Ram rackets have a busy April, with seven dual matches and two tournaments, including the annual Portales tournament starting on April 11.
“I think we’re going to do really good,” Short said. “We just have to get our bottom (seeds) stronger.”