The Nogales High School boys tennis team swept the Higley High School Knights of Gilbert 5-0 in their first-round Division II state tournament game at NHS on Wednesday.

Still, it was no cakewalk for the Apaches, coach Rudy Molera insisted.

“If you look at every individual match, it didn’t go as easy as it looked on paper. But I’m proud of our kids. They competed,” he said.

The two least stressful matches of the day came in the No. 2 and 3 positions, where Eddie Yepiz won 6-2, 6-2, and Gabriel Corella cruised to a 6-2, 6-1 victory, respectively.

“Our No. 4, Emilio (Heredia), got in a dogfight in the second set and pulled a tiebreaker, so I’m proud of him, too,” Molera said.

Heredia and Tiber Baker of Higley also managed to have fun in their match, chatting and joking amiably between plays before Heredia took a 6-1, 7-6 decision.

“It’s good to see good camaraderie between teams,” Molera said. “Our kids are great about making friends with other teams. It’s about competitiveness, but also respecting the opponent.”

With senior Gabriel Duran unavailable for the match due to a commitment with the school mariachi group, freshman Gustavo Acosta stepped in to play at the No. 6 position and won 6-1, 3-6, 6-0.

“He had played in a varsity match before, but not it tournament play. It’s a big difference, a lot more pressure, so it was good to see him come through. He lost his second set, but he kept his composure and competed well,” Molera said.

With Nogales ahead 4-0, Juan Arvizu delivered the knockout blow in the No. 5 match, winning 7-5, 6-4 after a pep talk from Molera late in the second set.

“I was just trying to calm him down and let him know that we were up 4-0, they had all the pressure on them, and just to keep the ball in play and make the other guy make the mistakes,” Molera said. “And he did.”

Arvizu’s match-sealing win put an early end to the No. 1 contest between Eric Meyer of Nogales and Carson Abril of Higley, who had the advantage at the time the game was called.

Nogales, the No. 7 seed in the tournament following an 11-2 regular season, will now play a semifinal match on Wednesday, May 1 at No. 2 seed Notre Dame Prep of Scottsdale (14-0), which advanced with a 5-0 first-round win over Gila Ridge.

Meanwhile, on Friday in Glendale, Meyer and Yepiz will compete in the state doubles tournament and Corella will play in the singles portion of the competition.

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