By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsemail@example.com
Montana's unpredictable spring weather washed out Friday's opening day of the Helena Invitational tennis tournament. But the weather did not affect the Havre Blue Ponies as they served notice that a Class A team can be a force on the Class AA circuit.
After Friday's rainout, several teams departed the tournament, but the Ponies remained and were virtually untouched by the best that Class AA has to offer in the way of boys doubles.
The team of Jeremy Heninger and Daine Solomon ran away with the No. 1 doubles bracket and were not even challenged in the final as they defeated the No. 1 team from Missoula Hellgate, 6-2, 6-0.
In No. 2 doubles, Marc Mariani and Gary Wagner were equally, if not more, dominant. In the first two rounds, they lost a total of two games and then lost only two more games in the championship match as they knocked off Hellgate's No. 2 team 6-1, 6-1.
To top it all off, Havre's No. 3 team of Ian Spencer and Coda Tchida made it three titles in a row for the Ponies with a three-set victory over Hellgate's No. 3 team.
The trio of Pony doubles teams had Havre head coach Sam Dierman praising their play over the weekend.
"Our boys doubles teams didn't lose a match," Dierman said. "If we could have put Marc and Gary in the No. 1 bracket, we would have went one and two. Our doubles teams are showing that they are as good as anybody in the state right now."
Havre also got a lift in the boys singles competition as sophomore Kyle Baltrusch captured the No. 2 singles title on Saturday. Baltrusch was dominant through the first two rounds as he lost just one game in two matches. In the final he routed Hellgate's No. 2 singles player, 6-2, 6-0, to cap off an impressive run.
"Kyle played his best tournament so far this season," Dierman said. "He finally put things together and he was unbelievable."
On the girls side, the Ponies racked up two more singles titles and also got a second and a third place in doubles.
Amy McLain captured her second individual title of the season by winning the No. 2 singles bracket in impressive fashion. The Ponies also got a title from Megan Rice in the No. 3 bracket, as she defeated Helena High's No. 3 singles player in a hard-fought three-set finale. Crystal Pyrak also turned in a solid tournament with a third-place finish in the No. 1 bracket.
"Our girls singles players were all impressive this weekend," Dierman said. "Amy was very dominant and Megan Rice has really continued to improve lately. Crystal bounced back and played really well after a tough match in the first round."
Havre's top doubles team of Jennifer Gorder and Ryan Hamilton finished with a solid third-place showing in the No. 1 doubles bracket. After losing in the semifinals to a very good No. 1 team from Missoula Sentinel, the duo bounced back and won two straight matches to bring home third-place honors.
In the No. 3 bracket, the team of senior Sara Suek and freshman Steph Flatau grabbed second-place honors. They fell in the championship match to Hellgate's No. 3 team.
All in all, the weekend was a big success for the Ponies, and Dierman was feeling very good about not only how his teams performed this weekend, but how they can perform as the season progresses.
"Our team was very impressive this weekend and everyone played very well," Dierman said. "If team scores had been kept, our boys would have won the tournament and our girls would have been in a very close race with Missoula Sentinel and Missoula Hellgate. If we can perform like that, we are going to be very solid."
Next up for the Ponies will be two separate trips to Great Falls this week. On Tuesday, Havre will be in Great Falls to dual Lewistown, CMR and Great Falls High. On Friday, they will return to the Electric City for the annual Great Falls Invitational tournament.