Four times a week, Nogales junior Cristina Oropeza gets in the car with either her mom, Ana, or dad, David, and rides about an hour and 20 minutes to Reffkin Tennis Center.
She spends a couple of hours on the court while whichever parent drove her that day, kills time at Wal-Mart or Target.
"It's important to go up there and get a high level of competition," Oropeza said. "I can't always get the competition I need in Nogales, so I come up here to play the top girls as much as I can."
The importance of the trips to the center has been raised lately with the state individual tournament set to begin today. She advanced to the state quarterfinals her freshman and sophomore seasons and is eager to take the next step this year.
She earned the No. 6 seed in the Division II field and will play her first match today at Phoenix Tennis Center.
Before she headed north, Oropeza chatted with the Star.
What was your biggest focus heading into your junior season?
A: "I am really working on my consistency. That was the biggest thing I've been working on, and playing at the Reffkin Center really helped me. I didn't always feel like I was playing up to potential and now I try to play as hard as I can every time I have a match."
What do you think are the best parts of your game?
A: "My serve and my backhand."
How did those become so strong?
A: "I started playing when I was about 6 or 7 years old and began working on all the technical stuff. My serve and my backhand were what I was best at when I started and it's just always been that way."
What do you work on during your practice sessions?
A: "Tuesday and Thursday, we work on drilling. They divide us onto different courts and we work on ground shots, serves and volley and footwork. Then one of the days we do mental work and the other day we go against each other."
Your team's No. 2 player, Lucia Suarez, is your cousin and good friend. How much have you enjoyed playing with her?
A: "She's my best competition in Nogales. We started playing at the same age and just have always been playing together. It's going to be sad when we finish playing together, because she has kept me going for a long time. Without her, I don't know where I would be."
You're ranked as 56th-best prospect in the Southwest. Where would you like to play in college?
A: "I'm kind of looking right now, but this summer when colleges can talk to me, I'll start looking more. I can see which schools view my profile on some of the recruiting sites I'm on and it's been exciting. It's definitely my dream to play in college."
Today's postseason tennis schedule
• Division I boys at Scottsdale Indian Park: Singles at 10:30 a.m., doubles at 4 p.m.
• Division I girls at Gene Autry Tennis Center in Mesa: Singles at 10:30 a.m., doubles at 1:30 p.m.
• Division II boys at Scottsdale Ranch Park: Singles at 10:30 a.m., doubles at 1:30 p.m.
• Division II girls at Phoenix Tennis Center: Singles at 10:30 a.m., doubles at 1:30 p.m.
• Division III boys at Paseo Racquet Center in Glendale: Singles at 11:30 a.m., doubles at 12:30 p.m.
• Division III girls at Paseo Racquet Center: Singles at 8:30 a.m., doubles at 10 a.m.