St. Michael’s girls tennis player also excelling playing basketball with Lady Horsemen

December 30, 2018

Haley Garcia’s fear was getting hurt in the sport she liked, not the one she loved.

All it took was an injury in the sport she loved to realize injuries can happen at any time.

A senior, is a standout tennis player at St. Michael’s, but Garcia also played volleyball and basketball during her freshman and sophomore years before deciding to spend her junior year focusing on her best sport. The result was taking third place in the Class 1A-4A singles bracket in May and earning a scholarship to Division II Dominican University at California in San Rafael soon afterward.

But when she broke an ankle in the summer, it hammered home a lesson.

“I knew there were injuries everywhere,” Garcia said. “There is no way to avoid injuries, so I will have to deal with it.”

The last part of Garcia’s statement is an acknowledgement of her again taking a chance on the basketball court.

She started the 2018-19 season as the team manager for the girls basketball team before the Lady Horsemen encouraged her to play. Since she joined the team in the opening round of Santa Fe High’s Bobby Rodriguez Capital City Tournament on Dec. 6, Garcia is averaging 6.5 points per game. She adds another scorer for the Lady Horsemen, who are 6-5 and more than halfway to matching last year’s 10-win season.

“It’s a critical piece of the puzzle for us to have a well-rounded team,” St. Michael’s head coach Martin Esquibel said. “Having an an athlete like Haley, who is an intelligent athlete on the tennis court, is that her basketball IQ is pretty good.”

Garcia played two seasons under then-head coach Martin Romero and Esquibel when he was an assistant coach. When Esquibel took over as head coach, he changed the system.

He said Garcia picked it up quickly and established herself as an important part of the rotation.

“She is a tremendous defender and an outside threat,” Esquibel said. “She anticipates well and knows where the ball is going and anticipates getting there. On the offensive end, she hits the [3-pointer] and she’s smart enough that when she hits a couple of shots, defenders are going to come out on her. Then, she shot fakes, and drives to the basket and kicks it out when she needs to.”

She showed that skill against Los Alamos in the fifth-place game at the Capital City Tournament. Garcia scored 16 points and helped the Lady Horsemen overcome a double-digit deficit in the second half to pull out a 56-51 win.

“It was really exciting to see, because none of of us gave up,” Garcia said. “We were down by double digits at one point, but we left it out there. It was very nice to see.”

While Garcia looks like she never left the basketball court, she made the decision to forgo volleyball and basketball after her sophomore year so that she could focus on tennis in an effort to earn a scholarship. She was the 1A-4A runner-up in tennis as a sophomore, went 30-9 last year and reached the state semifinals before losing to Portales’ Sarah Blaeser. Garcia dropped to the third-place match.

While that success, as well playing in the junior regional U.S. Tennis Association circuit, helped get her a scholarship, Garcia knows that it’s just the beginning of the workload she will bear. Garcia said she goes to the Rosemarie Shellaberger Tennis Center after basketball practice to work on tennis.

“I knew that, even though I got my spot and the scholarship I wanted, I knew that wasn’t it,” Garcia said. “I still have to work at it. I still do tennis every day. I always loved basketball, but I knew there had to be tennis, too.”

Esquibel said he and the coaching staff try to accommodate her as much as possible.

“I understand that tennis is her primary sport,” Esquibel said. “As much as we want her on the basketball court going 110 percent, we understand she signed this letter of intent to play tennis, and she still works on it. So, we try to give her some breathing time and not overuse her.”

The routine might get tricky in February when the spring-sports season begins and the Lady Horsemen will have a couple of tournaments as the basketball season hits the home stretch. Garcia said the basketball schedule only has three Saturday games left, with two in February, but she feels that she can help both teams during that stretch.

Her tennis teammates are with her at Shellaberger in the offseason getting ready for the season, as well.

“I have a lot of trust and faith in our team that, if I don’t go to a tournament, they can get things done,” Garcia said. “They all have gotten a lot better. I trust they can win, if it’s a tournament or a game, I feel they can win.”

As for the fear of injury? Garcia has come to terms with it, and she feels it’s not an issue.

“After the Capital City Tournament, I was back in play and I felt like I should be playing basketball again,” Garcia said. “Being scared to be out there and getting injured, I’ve let things play out.”

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