By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsemail@example.com
A four team race for tennis supremacy on the Hi-Line gets under way today in Havre with the opening day of the Northern C girls Divisional tennis tournament.
The tournament is officially hosted by the Chinook Sugarbeeters, but it will take place at the Bill Vaughey Memorial tennis courts and began today at 10:00 a.m. The meet will feature girls teams from Chinook, Chester, Big Sandy and Fort Benton.
The Chester Coyotes come into today's tournament as the seven-time defending divisional champion, but according to Coyote head coach Dustin Gordon, defending their title will not be easy this season.
"I think that Fort Benton is definitely the favorite this season," Gordon said. "We were the underdog last season and we ended up winning the tournament. I think we are definitely going to be the underdog to Fort Benton again this year.
"As far as team standings go, I think there is some separation," Gordon added. "Fort Benton is very solid and then us. Big Sandy and Chinook are a little behind those two teams as far as team points go."
Chinook head coach and tournament director Tom Maclean agreed with Gordon's assessment of the team competition.
"Fort Benton and Chester have very good teams and they have a lot of experience," Maclean said. "We, (Chinook) on the other hand, are a very young team. We have a sophomore playing No. 1 singles and our top doubles team is made of juniors."
In singles competition, the top six places from the divisional tournament will advance to the State B-C meet in Missoula and the top four doubles teams from the divisional tournament will also advance to Missoula.
Abby Kelly of Fort Benton comes into today's meet as the top-ranked player in the Northern C and is undefeated against division opponents in 2003. Carly Squires of Big Sandy is ranked right behind Kelly and Jenae Singer of Fort Benton is ranked third. Chester's Tess Ritter will come in ranked fourth.
Gordon also lists Savannah Fisher of Chester and Rachel Hanson of Chinook as two other players that should make the top six and advance to the state meet.
While the singles draw appears to be a very structured race, Gordon thinks that the doubles bracket may be wide open. The No. 1 team from Fort Benton comes into the meet heavily favored but Chester's top team, as well as the team of Melanie Overcast and Lacey Sargent of Chinook also figure to qualify for the state meet as well.
"I think the doubles bracket is very up in the air," Gordon said. "Fort Benton has a very good team at No. 1 and then I think any of the other three top teams from Chester, Chinook and Big Sandy could sneak in there."
While the Northern C divisional tournament is scheduled to be a two day event, the usually uncooperative Havre weather may have something to say about that. With the forecast calling for cool temperatures and high chances of precipitation for this weekend, Maclean is prepared to deal with weather delays.
"We are going to try to get as much done today as we can," Maclean said. "If we get behind we may have to shorten matches in the losers bracket and we also may have to finish the tournament on Monday as well."
All the action got under way at 9 a.m. this morning at the Bill Vaughey Memorial tennis courts in Havre. The tournament is scheduled to run until dark tonight and then resume at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning.