NMMI Sports Press
Four the top junior college tennis teams in the nation made their way to Roswell, NM for this weekend’s Gene Hardman Invitational Tournament.
Men’s and women’s teams from Collin College, NMMI, Pima Community College, and Seward County Community College converged on the NMMI campus at 7:30 am on Friday, ready for some singles and doubles action.
According to head NMMI Bronco women’s coach Dan O’Connell, the two-day tourney consists of three singles flights and one doubles flight. “Each singles flight has two players from each team, so eight total. Every player will play three singles matches, and at the end we’ll have a place for each player – first through eight. For doubles, all twelve teams, two from each school, will compete in a single bracket.”
Coach Connell continued with why they started hosting the Gene Hardman Invitational. “We wanted to honor a great NMMI coach, Gene Hardman, who passed away four years ago. He was a two-sport All-American cadet-student-athlete at NMMI, a Vietnam veteran, and an outstanding multi-sport coach at NMMI.
“We’re very happy to be hosting this tournament,” said head Bronco men’s coach Daniel Dominguez. “As a coach, this is my second time being involved with the Hardman Invitational, and I think we’ve already had a great opening day.”
Marcel Agbegne and Kukulta Motlojoa competed in the top men’s singles bracket for NMMI. Agbegne dropped his opening match to top-seeded Tim Lamare from Seward but came back with a win over Pima’s Cody Petford to advance to tomorrow’s 8:30 am match for 5th place. Motlojoa won his first-round match against Pima’s Francisco Sotelo, then fell in the semi-finals to Collin’s Akinori Wada. He’ll play tomorrow at 8:30 am as well, in a match for third place.
In Pool B, NMMI’s Orlando Santillanes and Ned Merrion both lost their first two matches. They’ll face each other tomorrow at 8:30 am to decide seventh place.
In Pool C, NMMI’s lone contender Samuel Walsh had to withdraw due to an injury.
In men’s doubles action, Agbegne and Motlojoa teamed up. After an opening-round bye, they dropped their quarterfinals match to Seward. Tomorrow afternoon, they’ll play two matches to try and fight back for up to a fifth-place finish.
The Merrion and Santillanes tandem lost their opening doubles match to Pima, then won against a combined team from Seward and NMMI to advance to a match for ninth place tomorrow.
Overall, I think our NMMI men’s team played well today against some very tough competition,” said coach Dominguez. “We’ve definitely still got some things to learn, but at this level, playing opponents of this caliber, the experience is invaluable. Hopefully it will help us compete when we start our season next semester.”
On the women’s side, both Francisca Nyarko and Mikayla Lopez won their opening matches in the Pool A singles flight, then lost in the second round. They’ll play each other tomorrow in the match for third place.
In Pool B flight singles, Megan Lynch won her first match easily, then lost 10-8 in a super tie-breaker in the second round. “She did very well against a very tough opponent from Seward,” said coach O’Connell. Lynch will play for third place tomorrow against Pima’s Emma Oropeza at 9:45 am.
Also in Pool B, NMMI’s Becsave Pacheco lost in two close sets to her first-round opponent from Pima, then fell to her second-round opponent from Seward. She’ll play Pima’s Jayme Shafer for seventh place in a match tomorrow beginning at 9:45 am.
In Pool C, Kathy Clouthier dropped both her opener and second round matches – she’ll play Pima’s Ashley Fitzsimmons for seventh, also schedule for tomorrow at 9:45 am.
In women’s doubles, Lopez and Nyarko will play in the championship match. They had a bye in the first round, then bested Collin’s duo in the semis. They’ll face Seward’s top tandem, Patricia Panta and Steffany Bermudez tomorrow afternoon for first place.
“Our girls today did pretty well,” said coach Connell. I’m especially proud of my top double team. Franny and Mikayla are both sophomores who have done an exceptional job here at NMMI. They’re not only great tennis players who will be playing for a title tomorrow, but they’re also great students and ranking members of the Corps of Cadets.”
“What’s great about this tournament is that it allows schools to play teams they normally would be able to,” finished coach O’Connell. “The trip from Tucson, AZ (where Pima CC is located) to Liberal, KS (Seward County CC’s hometown) is more than 12 hours. But by meeting here in the middle, at NMMI, it cuts those travel times in half, and allows schools to play multiple opponents, all in one weekend trip.”
The Hardman Invitational continues tomorrow at the Institute tennis courts, with play beginning at 8:30 am. The public is invited to come out and watch some great tennis action by some of the top juco players in the nation.