By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsemail@example.com
On a day that could only be referred to as perfect when it comes to weather, the Havre High girls and boys tennis teams were nearly that, as they swept first-place honors at the annual Havre Invitational tennis tournament on Saturday at the Havre High School tennis courts.
With temperatures nearing 80 degrees and light winds, the weather was unusually cooperative for a Havre tennis tournament, and the Blue Pony girls team definitely took advantage of the conditions. The Pony girls finished one and two in the No. 1 singles bracket and they took top honors in the girls doubles bracket as well.
In the top singles championship, Havre sophomore Amy McLain outlasted senior teammate Crystal Pyrak 8-3. For McLain, it was her first single's title of the season, and the play of both girls earned praise from Havre High head coach Sam Dierman.
"Crystal and Amy played very well," Dierman said. "Their championship match was extremely intense and the fact that they have to battle in practice will only make both of them better."
Havre's only girls doubles team participating this weekend had a successful Saturday as well. Jennifer Gorder and Ryan Hamilton breezed through the top doubles bracket with a perfect 3-0 record, including an 8-2 win in the championship match over Conrad's top doubles team.
"Ryan and Jennifer were extremely dominant on Saturday," Dierman said. "They are very fundamentally sound right now. My only concern at this point is finding another doubles team who will step up."
The Pony girls also enjoyed solid success in the lower brackets on Saturday. Megan Rice captured third place in the No. 2 singles bracket, defeating teammate Erika Johnson 8-4 in the consolation match. In the No. 3 bracket, Havre High freshman Kelsey Evans captured her first singles title of the season by knocking off fellow teammate Jenna Baltrusch 6-0 in the title match. Karissa Olson captured third-place honors in the No. 4's bracket with a 6-1 win in the consolation match.
"A big surprise came in the No. 3 singles tournament," Dierman said. "Kelsey Evans and Jenna Baltrusch were seeing their very first varsity action and they finish one and two. I was really pleased with that."
On the boys side of the tournament, the day belonged to Havre High doubles teams. The top team of Jeremy Heninger and Daine Solomon went virtually untouched through three matches, as they wrapped up the field with an 8-1 win over Havre High sophomores Gary Wagner and Marc Mariani in the championship.
The duo's dominating performance came as no surprise to Dierman or to Heninger.
"I was really happy with our doubles teams," Dierman said. "Jeremy and Daine were very dominant and they were not challenged. Marc and Gary were also dominant until they ran into Jeremy and Daine.
"The fact that those two teams are playing in practice will continue to make each other better."
Said Heninger: "I feel like Daine and I are playing really well right now. And I think that Marc and Gary are probably the most underrated team in the state. We are only going to make each other better and I hope that this weekend was a preview of the state championship match."
The Ponies also got a big lift from their No. 3 doubles team of Coda Tchida and Ian Spencer. That duo garnered fourth-place honors on Saturday as they fell in the consolation match 8-4 to Carson Sweeney and Casey Jenni of Lewistown.
In the boys singles competition, Cut Bank swept honors in the top singles bracket. Standout junior Keithan Gregg defeated teammate Matt Lewis, 8-4, in the final match. The win kept Gregg undefeated on the season. Havre's Cody McLain rebounded from a first-round loss to capture third place with an 8-5 win over Jeff Ernst of Lewistown. In the No. 3 and No. 4 bracket, Blue Pony John Christian grabbed first-place honors with a 6-4 win in the championship match. Freshman Chase Castloo also performed well by finishing third.
"The surprise from boys singles this weekend came from John Christian," Dierman said. "I only told him the day before that he was playing singles this weekend and he comes through and places first. My concern right now is with our top singles players. Kyle (Baltrusch) and Cody (McLain) are great players, but they haven't shown the consistency that they need to have yet this season. Hopefully, with continued practice, they will get better."
Next up for the Ponies is a trip to Helena this weekend for one of the biggest Class AA tournaments of the season. The prestigious Helena Invitational will get under way Friday morning and continue through Saturday afternoon.