Her place in Rio Rancho High School lore is set.
Maybe someday Samantha Baltz will gain entry into the RRHS Sports Hall of Fame, and have a plaque designating her feats on a wall in the RAC.
Maybe she’ll be the answer to a trivia question: Who’s the first Ram tennis player to win a state doubles title as a junior and become the singles runner-up player as a senior?
Samantha Baltz, snagging her diploma May 23 at the Rio Rancho Events Center, began playing tennis at the tender age of 7.
“I played my first tournament when I was 9,” she said, getting better year by year – maybe even week by week – until she became a tennis star at Rio Rancho High School, basically a regular participant at state tournaments and winning the 5A doubles crown in 2022 with Katie Segal.
Segal graduated last May, so with another year of high school to go, Baltz went back to singles, earning the No. 3 seed at state, She beat the 2 seed before running into the No. 1 seed, Eldorado sophomore standout Vianca Corley, in the championship match, where she lost in straight sets.
Not many girls have beaten Corley, who has two sisters playing on the University of Oklahoma team.
“I had a blast playing against Vianca and believe that playing her always makes me a better player. She is a strong opponent and hits hard,” Baltz said, and when asked what she’d do differently if she had another shot at her, answered, “One thing I would have done differently is hitting balls higher to allow myself more time when in defense. Vianca hits both fast and hard, so I struggled.”
The loss wasn’t because of a lack of effort; Baltz works tirelessly to get better.
“During the high school season I play every day, with the exception of one day to rest and work,” she said. “The rest of the year, I play at least 3-4 times a week. Usually if I am practicing, I play for about two hours.”
She gained a postseason honors along the way: She was named to the Red all-star tennis team, which battled the Green team last weekend at the McKinnon Family Tennis Center. Cleveland High senior Rachel Shaw was a teammate on the Red squad.
“I would say tennis is my life,” Baltz said.
“Tennis is a sport I would describe as my ‘happy place,’ because it has always brought me calm and happiness, even when my life was lacking it,” Baltz said. “It is also where I have found lifelong friends.”
Next stop: Linfield University in Minnville, Oregon, with the goal of being an educator.
“I want to major in secondary education and .math,” she said also eyeing a spot on the Wildcats’ tennis team, which has a pretty good court record up there.
Founded in 1858, Linfield is a private liberal arts school that maintains loose ties to its founding Baptist Church. The school, with fewer than 1,500 students, has another campus in Portland, about an hour drive from the main campus.
Notable Linfield alumni include Amy Tan, author of “The Joy Luck Club,” and Scott Brosius, former World Series MVP.
“I really liked Linfield when I visited,” she said. “The tennis team was very kind and passionate and I am so excited to connect more with them and be a part of it next year.
“I also got to learn more about their education program,” she added. “I was attracted to them for their smaller environment and I am excited to start classes.”
Baltz isn’t saying goodbye to the sport after college.
“I plan to continue tennis and believe it is a sport I can play even when my hair turns grey,” she said.