By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
The Havre High tennis teams persevered through weather delays, an unexpected road trip and some tough competition to sweep the team titles at the Central A divisional tournament.
With play scheduled to begin Friday morning, the weather was far from cooperative in Lewistown. Rain pounded the area for much of the day, only allowing for a small window of play late in the afternoon. With the forecasts calling for more precipitation, coaches and officials decided to move the tournament to Bozeman on Saturday and finish up the competition at the Montana State University indoor tennis facility.
With the delays and weather and traveling, it would have been easy for the Ponies to lose focus on the task at hand. Instead, they played some of their best tennis of the season.
"This was a very difficult weekend for all of our kids," said head coach George Ferguson. "We had an eight-hour rain delay on Friday and then we got up at 5 a.m. on Saturday morning and moved the entire tournament to Bozeman. So for the kids to persevere under those circumstances and win two divisional championships is pretty special."
Special indeed, particularly for the girls. The Pony girls ended Livingston's five-year reign as Central A champs, pulling off a shocking team win. Thanks to Amy McLain's singles title and some gutty performances from its other players, Havre scored 54 team points. Livingston was second with 43.
"This was a very big weekend for our girls program," Ferguson said. "Livingston had won the previous five divisional championships, and we came into this tournament with six girls who weren't even on varsity last year. So for a young team like we have to score 54 points and win the divisional championship is a really special feeling."
As expected, McLain had little trouble en route to her singles title. She lost only three games in three matches to get to the final. After falling in last year's divisional championship match, McLain wasn't about to lose, easily defeating Ashley Angle of Livingston 6-3, 6-1.
"Once again our girls singles players were really the backbone for us," Ferguson said. "Amy cruised to the divisional championship without even being threatened. Ashley Angle is a player who gave her some trouble two weeks ago. This time Amy really dispatched her fairly easily. Not only is her game really strong right now, but she is so tough mentally. I don't think there was anyone else in that tournament that was going to win the divisional championship but her."
While McLain's title gave Havre plenty of team points, it was the gutsy performances of Megan Rice and Karissa Olson that put the Ponies over the top. Rice bounced back after a tough 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 quarterfinal loss to Angle to win three matches in the losers bracket and make it to the consolation match.
Olson's road was even tougher as she lost her first-round match to Livingston's Serena Morrow, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4). Olson ripped off five consecutive wins to reach the consolation match. Rice got the best of her teammate, winning 10-4 to finish third.
"The big excitement really came from Megan and Karissa," Ferguson said. "Karissa was absolutely amazing to watch. She just keep beating everyone that was in front of her. She was down in a couple of matches and she had to beat the No. 2 seed in the match to qualify for the state tournament. No one can ever question that girl's heart and determination.
"Megan was way ahead of Angle in the quarterfinals, but ended up losing. It really took a lot out of her. But she also had it in her mind that she wasn't going to let her season end at divisionals, and she battled back to win some huge matches and place third. I am just so proud of both of those girls for never giving up on themselves or their team even when things looked pretty bleak. We would not have been where we are now without the efforts of both of them."
Havre's other team points came from its No. 1 doubles team of Steph Flatau and Keelie Solomon. The duo finished second, losing to rival Devin Nelson and Alira Carpenter of Lewistown 7-5, 5-7, 6-2 in the finals.
"Steph and Keelie pulled out a very tough match in the semis before losing a heartbreaker in the final," Ferguson said. "Their semifinal match turned out to be really key for us pointwise. They may still only be sophomores, but if they keep playing well, they are going to be a force at the state tournament."
The remaining Havre girls also contributed to the team title. No. 4 singles player Katy Dow finished 1-2 in the tournament, while the No. 2 doubles team of of Kari Gorder and Kristi Hollingshead finished 2-2 on the weekend, narrowly missing out on qualifying for state. The No. 3 doubles team of Jocelyn Chagnon and Molly Proctor finished 1-2, picking up a win in the consolation bracket.
"Everyone on our team scored points for us," Ferguson said. "Jocelyn and Molly each won a match, as did Katy Dow, and Kari and Kristi came very close to qualifying for state. We wouldn't have done this without every one of those points. I am just really proud of this whole team, they really earned it."
While it was the girls' first team title, the Havre boys added another Central A trophy to an already crowded trophy case. The Pony boys dominated their competition as expected and won their sixth straight title, scoring 54 points.
"I am really happy for our boys team," Ferguson said. "They have had some adversity this season and the difficulty of this weekend made this divisional championship pretty tough. But they all played well and I know they are very proud of the fact that they have now won six straight Central A championships. That is pretty a pretty special thing for all of them to be a part of."
Kyle Baltrusch continued his dominance of the Central A, winning his third straight divisional singles title with a 6-2, 6-2 win over teammate Chase Castloo in the championship match. Baltrusch only lost three games on his way to the championship match and seems on track for a third straight state title.
"Kyle was very dominant this weekend," Ferguson said. "He looked pretty sharp and he seems to be getting stronger with each match. He is playing some very good tennis at precisely the right time, and I know he has his eyes on a much bigger prize later this week. There is no doubt in my mind who the favorite is when we get back to Lewistown later in the week."
Castloo's appearance in the finals was a pleasant surprise. He won his first match with relative ease and won a tough semifinal match against Butte Central's Nick Siddoway to reach the finals.
"Chase gave our team a much needed boost this weekend," Ferguson said. "He played amazing tennis. Even in the final, he gave Kyle a very competitive match and the two of them had a lot of fun in that match. We needed a lift from someone other than our top three players, and Chase was one of the guys that stepped up and gave it to us. I am really proud of him for rising to the challenge and taking his game to a whole other level when the team really needed it most."
Havre's top doubles team of Gary Wagner and Marc Mariani won its much awaited doubles title, easily dispatching teammates Billy Wagner and Coda Tchida 6-1, 6-0 in the finals.
"Marc and Gary cruised to their first divisional championship," Ferguson said. "They weren't really tested, but they looked pretty sharp and they appear to be more than ready for the state tournament, where they will be favored to win. Coda and Billy gave our team another big lift this weekend. They pulled out a very dramatic win in the semifinals to finish second. They both took their game to the next level this past weekend and they are a big reason why we were able to capture this divisional championship. If they continue to play well, I have a feeling good things are going to happen for them next weekend."
Havre narrowly missed out on qualifying its other remaining players for the state tournament. Scott Miller was a win away from qualifying. After losing a very close first-round match, Miller won two straight matches before falling to Siddoway in the consolation bracket.
No. 4 player Ryan Kinholt finished 1-2 on the day, while the No. 3 doubles team of Lucas Hamilton and John Christian lost both of its matches.
"I also saw some very encouraging things from two of our young singles players. Scott Miller and Ryan Kinholt played some very good tennis but came up just short of reaching the state tournament. Their performances, though, show me that the future of Havre High tennis should be in some very capable hands the next couple of years."
Havre will return to Lewistown on Friday for the Class A state tournament. CENTRAL A DIVISIONAL TENNIS RESULTS
Havre 54, Livingston 43, Lewistown 32, Anaconda 22,
Butte Central 4
Amy McLain (1st Place)
McLain def. Amanda Hoover, LIV, 6-0, 6-0; McLain def. Heather Walker, ANA, 6-1, 6-1; McLain def. Tessa Spear, ANA, 6-1, 6-0; McLain def. Ashley Angle, LIV, 6-3, 6-1.
Megan Rice (3rd Place)
Rice def. Ashley Olson, LEW, 6-2, 6-2; Angle, LIV, def. Rice, 6-2, 5-7, 6-2; Rice def. Ashleigh Haubrich, ANA, 10-1; Rice def. Emily Gordon, LEW, 10-2; Rice def.
Spear, ANA, 10-3; Rice def. Karissa Olson, Hav.
Karissa Olson (4th Place)
Serena Morrow, LIV, def. Olson, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4); Olson def. Jamie Berg, LEW, 6-4, 6-0; Olson def. Morrow, LIV, 10-6; Olson def. Walker, ANA, 10-8; Olson def. Hoover, LIV, 10-6; Olson def. Story, LIV, 10-6; Rice def. Olson.
Haubrich, ANA, def. Dow, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4; Dow def. Callan Driscoll, BC, 6-4, 6-4; Haubrich, ANA, def. Dow, 10-7.
Steph Flatau/Keelie Solomon (2nd Place)
Flatau Solomon def. Everett/Healy, BC, 6-1, 6-1; Flatau/Solomon def. Jennifer Wesen/Vanessa Sievers, LIV, 6-1, 6-4; Flatau/Solomon def. Shaylynn
Conroy/Katilin Flament, Lew; Devin Nelson/Alira Carpenter, Lew def. Flatau/Solomon, 7-5, 5-7, 6-2.
Kari Gorder/Kristi Hollingshead
Gorder/Hollingshead def. Jackie Smith/Kaylyn Johnston, ANA, 6-1, 6-1; Agnes Kesting/Meghan Foote, LIV, def. Gorder/Hollingshead, 6-1, 6-2; Gorder/Hollingshead def. Melvin/Steele, BC, 10-3; Katie Jackson/Merrick Carpenter, Lew def. Gorder/Hollingshead, 10-8.
Jocelyn Chagnon/Molly Proctor
Ayala Marjmaa/Chandra Calder, ANA, def. Chagnon/Proctor, 6-2, 6-2; Chagnon/Proctor def. Anderwald/Burt, BC, 6-3, 6-0; Wesen/Sievers, LIV, def. Chagnon/Proctor, 10-1.
Havre 54, Lewistown 29, Butte Central 8.
Kyle Baltrusch (1st Place)
Baltrusch def. Brandon Hemseth, LEW, 6-1, 6-0; Baltrusch def. Gustaf Lindgren, LEW, 6-1, 6-1; Baltrusch def. Chase Castloo, HAV, 6-2, 6-2.
Chase Castloo (2nd Place)
Castloo def. Casey Holst, LEW, 6-3, 6-0; Castloo def. Nick Siddoway, BC, 10-6; Baltrusch def. Castloo, 6-2; 6-2.
Lindgren, LEW def. Miller, 6-7 (4-7), 6-2, 6-1; Miller def. Danny Markovich, BC, 10-8; Miller def. Hemseth, LEW, 10-6; Siddoway, BC def. Miller, 10-6.
Matt Gruener, LEW def. Kinholt, 7-6 (7-3), 6-7 (1-7), 7-6 (7-5); Kinholt def. Holst, LEW, 6-3, 6-1; Gruener, LEW, def. Kinholt, 10-7.
Marc Mariani/Gary Wagner (1st Place)
Mariani/Wagner def. Matt Pollard/Robert Loomis, LEW, 6-1, 6-2; Mariani/Wagner def. Coda Tchida/Billy Wagner 6-1, 6-0.
Coda Tchida/Billy Wagner (2nd Place)
Wagner/Tchida def. Braine/Peterschick, LEW, 6-2, 6-4; Wagner/Tchida def. Michael Richter/Michael Gruener, LEW, 6-0, 3-6, 6-1, Wagner/Mariani def. Wagner/Tchida, 6-1, 6-0.
Lucas Hamilton/John Christian
Pollard/Loomis, Lew def. Hamilton/Christian, 1-6, 6-1, 6-3; Richter/Gruener, Lew def. Hamilton/Christian, 10-2.