By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sports/ firstname.lastname@example.org
The sport of tennis can be packed with pressure. Mainly because competitiors are alone on the court against an opponent. The sort of pressure the Havre High boys tennis team could have been under this weekend trying to meet the expectation of excellence and staying atop the Class A tennis mountain.
But as the dust has settled on the 2003 Class A state tennis tournament in Lewistown, the Ponies appeared to have never felt any pressure at all, as they overwhelmed a helpless field in Lewistown, scoring 58 points en route to capturing their fourth consecutive Class A state team title.
The six boys that represented the Ponies racked up the full amount of points that was possible for them to score. And despite the fact that Havre High head coach Sam Dierman has guided his team to three other state titles, this years' team set itself apart from the others.
"We were absolutely dominant this year," Dierman said. "We have had really close calls in the other three, but I was just amazed at how many points we scored. Glendive had a really good team and they only had 19 points, so that really says something special about our kids."
By Saturday morning, the Ponies made sure that there would be no close calls this season as they monopolized both the singles and doubles finals.
Jeremy Heninger and Daine Solomon captured the State A doubles title by defeating the likely future state championship team of Havre's Marc Mariani and Gary Wagner 6-2, 6-1 in the championship match.
It was both Heninger and Solomon's first state title. However, for Heninger it caps off one of the greatest doubles careers in Havre High tennis history, in which he played on all four state championship teams. He also captured four divisional titles as well as a second and a third-place finish at state to go along with his 2003 title. Heninger finshes his career atop the Havre High doubles points list.
The win also capped off a season in which the duo of Solomon and Heninger went undefeated as they became only the second team ever to win a state doubles title at Havre High. In 1992, the team of Jim Keller and Bill Nault were the first Havre High team to capture a Class A doubles crown.
Meanwhile, Wagner and Mariani also had a remarkable season. They were untouched at the state meet until they ran into their teammates and lost just four matches all season -all four losses coming at the hands of Solomon and Heninger.
"Our doubles teams were simply awesome this season," Dierman said. "Jeremy and Daine were extremely dominant all season and Marc and Gary have a great future ahead of them."
If having two doubles teams play for the state championship wasn't enough, the Ponies also ran away with the singles tournament as well. Sophomore Kyle Baltrusch successfully defended his Class A singles title by cruising to the final match where he defeated senior teammate Cody McLain 7-6 (7-3), 6-3. Baltrusch was never challenged in his three matches leading up to his showdown with McLain. While Baltrusch got the repeat, McLain's second career runner-up finish was a performance that cemented Havre's fate as four-time state champions.
"Kyle is a great player and he is fun to watch," Dierman said. "And Cody finished off a great career by playing really well this weekend.
"Cody (McLain) and Jeremy (Heninger) were both part of four divisional and state championships and they have meant so much to this program," Dierman added. "Their contributions to Havre High tennis cannot be measured. It is sad to think that they will not be around in the future."
Not to be outdone this weekend, the Havre High girls team turned in a remarkable fourth-place finish in Lewistown amongst some very fierce compeititon. The Ponies finished with 14 team points. Livingston captured the title with 20 points while Whitefish was second with 16 and Lewistown was third with 15 points.
"The girls team was outstanding this weekend," Dierman said. "We set a goal for them to get 10 points and they not only surpassed that, but we came close to getting third place. If a couple of matches would have went our way, we could have easily won the whole thing."
The fourth-place finish was the third- highest finish by a Havre High girls team at the Class A state meet.
Havre's success was due in large part to the surprising freshman duo of Keelie Solomon and Steph Flatau. The freshman tandem lost their opening match of the tournament to a team from Dillon, but clawed their way all the way through the losers bracket, winning four straight matches before falling to the same pair from Dillon in the consolation match.
"Steph and Keelie were a very pleasant surprise," Dierman said. "I set a goal for them to win one match and they ended up getting fourth. If they work hard in the off-season, they will have a great future in front of them."
In the singles competition, Havre High senior Crystal Pyrak reached the semifinals before falling to eventual champion Allison Fey of Whitefish. Fey also defeated sophomore Amy McLain in the quarterfinals on her way to her state singles title. In the end, McLain garnered fifth-place honors while Pyrak finished her career with a sixth-place finish.
"Both Crystal and Amy played great this weekend," Dierman said. "But they both had to play Allison Fey, who is a great player and that was tough for them.
"Amy will be back for us and she has really turned into a great player," Dierman added. "We will miss Crystal, but she leaves having set the standard for girls singles at Havre High. She is easily one of the top five players in girls history."