By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
Coaches and athletes often have vastly different views of certain competitions. Take for example this Saturday's Havre Invitational tennis tournament.
For the players on the Havre High tennis teams, this weekend's home tournament is a chance not to have to get up at the crack of dawn, ride a bus and play in unfamiliar tennis surroundings. Instead, the Pony netters get to sleep a little longer and the biggest plus of playing in front of family and friends.
For HHS head coach George Ferguson, the tournament obviously means hours of preparation, organization and headaches that have little to do with on-court activities. But he looks at the home meet as a chance for his younger varsity players to get some experience and the opportunity for the junior varsity team to play in a tournament.
"This is an exciting weekend for the kids, because they get to play at home in front of parents and friends, which is always fun for them," Ferguson said. "It's exciting for me because it is one of the few chances our JV kids get to play in a real tournament. I know they are really excited about playing this weekend."
To say the competition will be a little familiar would be a mild understatement, like saying the Montana weather in the spring is a little unfamiliar.
The usual suspects are Cut Bank, Conrad and Lewistown, who the Ponies have competed against the last two weekends.
Also competing will be girls squads from Chinook, Chester, Fort Benton, Fairfield and Big Sandy.
On the boys side, things could be very interesting. A week ago at the Conrad Invitational, Havre edged Cut Bank by one point to win the team title. It was far from dominant performances and left plenty to be desired from Ferguson.
"Even though we are at home, I really want to see a stronger showing from the boys team," Ferguson said. "My hope is that as a team, the kids are not satisfied with what we did last weekend in Conrad."
In the boys singles, Cut Bank's Keithan Gregg along with Havre's Kyle Baltrusch and Daine Solomon will be vying for the title. Gregg beat Baltrusch and Solomon last weekend, but Ferguson believes that both will give the three-time defending Class B-C champ a better match.
Havre's singles lineup is rounded out by Chase Castloo at No. 3 and Scott Miller and Ryan Kinholt both playing at No. 4. Castloo dropped a pair of disappointing matches in Conrad, but Ferguson believes he'll bounce back, while Miller and Kinholt will be making their first varsity singles appearances.
In the boys doubles, Havre's No.1 squad of Gary Wagner and Marc Mariani is coming off a relatively easy showing in Conrad. Ferguson knows the duo will be consistent and most likely win. But it is the play of his No.2 and No.3 doubles teams that concerns him most.
Ferguson will be closely watching the teams of Coda Tchida and Billy Wagner and Jordan Croft and Austin Small to see how they are competing, because he knows that to win a fifth-straight Class A state title, one of his doubles teams must step forward.
"I think our boys team is a little behind where it has been in past years," Ferguson said. "It's mainly because we have two new doubles teams that don't have much varsity experience. We are really looking for them to start coming along quickly if we are going to make another run for a state title."
Things aren't quite as dire on the girls side for Ferguson as a relatively expectation-free squad is starting to play very well. It will have to with the girls tournament featuring competitors from eight teams.
"The girls tournament is very big because we have a lot of Northern B-C schools coming in and that should make for some very competitive tennis."
The girls singles will be very competitive with Havre's Amy McLain and Megan Rice along with Fort Benton's Abby Hall and Carly Squires in the title hunt.
McLain defeated Rice last weekend in Conrad for the title. So far, McLain has won two tournaments this year and is poised for another run on Saturday.
Ferguson is also hoping for continued improvement from No. 3 Karissa Olson and No. 4 Christen Kittelson.
In the doubles portion, Havre's No. 1 squad of Steph Flatau and Keelie Solomon will look to improve on last weekend's third-place finish. They will face some tough competition from Lewistown's No. 1 squad of Alira Carpenter and Devin Nelson and No. 2 squad of Shaylynn Conroy and Caitlin Flament.
Like the HHS boys, the girls No.2 and No.3 doubles squads had little varsity experience coming in. Kari Gorder and Kristi Hollingshead and Jocelyn Chagnon and Molly Proctor are still trying to gain experience with each match. But the inexperience excuse is starting to wear a little thin with Ferguson.
"I want to see some improvement from our No.2 and No. 3 doubles teams," he said. "They are young, but this is the time of the year when they should start progressing. We need them to start scoring points if we are going to reach our goals this season."
Ferguson would like to see improvement from all of his girls.
"I expect the girls to be better this weekend," Ferguson said. "We finished really strong in Conrad, but we can score more points and there are some areas where we are better at."
In the junior varsity tournament, the Havre boys will have Tim McLean, Austin Wilson, Dean Koffler and Eric Moog competing. In the girls JV tourney, Katy Dow, Riche Wilson, Jordan Toner, Angie Maxwell and Samantha Boucher will represent Havre.