By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editorfirstname.lastname@example.org
The Havre High tennis team picked the right weekend to play its best tennis. The Ponies had solid showings in both the girls and boys divisions at the extremely competitive Helena Invitational tennis tournament.
"This was the best weekend of tennis we have had so far," said head coach George Ferguson. "The competition was very tough on both sides, and all of our kids really started to take their game to the next level. The girls scored 42 team points, which would have had them placing pretty high. The boys scored 39 points, which is also very good considering the quality of teams that were in the field."
The Blue Pony girls were led by junior No. 1 singles player Amy McLain, who finished second in the No. 1 bracket against some daunting competition. Missoula Big Sky's Heidi Lehman defeated McLain 6-2, 6-3 in the finals.
"Amy's play this weekend backed up what I already knew, which is that she is capable of playing with anybody in the state of Montana right now, and she is only going to get better." Ferguson said. "Her semifinal win over Eve Xanthopolous from Dillon was a big win for her because she'll be one of her main opponents in Class A. The championship match didn't really go her way, but she still played very solid tennis."
Havre's other girls singles players - Megan Rice and Karissa Olson - also played well. Rice bounced back after an opening-round loss to win four straight matches before falling to Sarah Urband of Bozeman in the consolation match to finish fourth.
Olson also suffered a first-round loss, but rebounded to win three matches before being eliminated by Marina Orcutt of CMR in the No. 3 consolation final to also finish fourth.
"Megan and Karissa also had good weekends," Ferguson said. "They both lost matches early in the tournament and they fought all the way back to finish fourth in each of their brackets. They both played a lot of tennis this weekend, and their play was a huge reason why we did so well in this tournament."
In the girls doubles, Havre's No. 1 team of Keelie Solomon and Steph Flatau finished fourth in the very tough No. 1 bracket.
The duo won its first two matches before falling to Kerri Messmer and Lori Sibbitt of Helena Capital in a three-set marathon. They rallied for a pair of wins, but fell to Class A foes Valory Monaco and Tiffany Stoddard of Dillon in the consolation final to finish fourth.
"Steph and Keelie also exceeded my expectations this weekend," Ferguson said. "They are a young team and even though they are becoming a very good team, they are still learning as they go. They played great tennis against some very strong doubles teams. I saw them get better in each match and they are really starting to become a force in doubles."
Havre's other two doubles teams didn't fare as well, but the team of Jocelyn Chagnon and Molly Proctor did manage to pick up a win on the weekend.
On the boys' side, Havre got solid performances from Daine Solomon, who captured the No. 2 championship with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 win over Alex Baaden of CMR.
Solomon wasted little time en route to the championship match with three easy wins before winning the marathon final.
"Daine played his best tennis of the season," Ferguson said. "He cruised in his first three matches of the tournament and then played a thriller against the top No. 2 singles player in the state from CMR. He gutted out a tough three-set match to win the championship. Even though it is only late April, he is really on top of his game right now."
Havre's No. 1 doubles team of Gary Wagner and Marc Mariani came up just short in its bid for a doubles title. Wagner and Mariani had little trouble making it to the finals before falling to Nick Richards and David Anderson of CMR to finish second.
"Marc and Gary showed me a lot this weekend," Ferguson said. "They really haven't had the opportunity to play anyone that will test them, until this weekend. In the championship, they played well but they got down a break of serve in each set and that is all it takes sometimes. Even with the loss to CMR, I am still excited about how well they are playing. The scary thing is how much time we still have for them to keep getting better."
Havre's No. 2 doubles team of Billy Wagner and Coda Tchida finished 3-2 on the weekend to finish fourth. Wagner and Tchida lost a tough semifinal match to Bozeman's No. 2 squad, but rallied to make it to the consolation final, where they were defeated by Ryan Flaherty and Matt Murphy of CMR.
"Coda and Billy showed a lot of improvement," Ferguson said. "They were a big reason why our team did so well. They were way behind in the first-round match and they came back to win that match, which was huge for their confidence. If they keep improving, they are going to be a very strong team by the end of the season."
In other singles action, Kyle Baltrusch struggled against some tough competition, losing two straight matches, while No. 3 player Lucas Hamilton was also 0-2 on the weekend.
"It was a tough weekend for Kyle," Ferguson said. "He was playing in a heavily loaded draw with four of the top five singles players in the entire state. He lost a heartbreaker in the opening round and then he lost another tough match after that. He played good tennis and he is very close to being right there with those kids."
The No. 3 doubles team of Chase Castloo and Jordan Croft finished the weekend with a 1-2 record.
With the level of competition, Ferguson couldn't have been more pleased with his team's performance.
"I saw a lot of our kids really start to improve and play better, even though they were facing better players than they have seen all year," Ferguson said. "The fact that they responded to that by playing so well is much more important to me than wins and losses right now."
Boys Singles No. 1
Adam Anderson, CMR def. Kyle Baltrusch, 6-7, 7-5, 7-2; Andrew Larson, BOZ def. Baltrusch, 8-3.
Boys Singles No. 2
Daine Solomon def. Jacob Dolan, BSV, 6-0, 6-1; Solomon def. Dylan Rogness, HH, 6-0. 6-1; Solomon def. Dayton Woods, BW, 6-1, 6-2; Solomon def. Alex Baaden, CMR, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4. (Solomon wins championship).
Boys Singles No. 3
Nick Wuang, BH def. Lucas Hamilton, 7-5, 6-2; Daniel Lard, FH def. Hamilton, 8-2.
Boys Doubles No. 1
Marc Mariani/Gary Wagner def. Steve Jackson/Brett Jackson, BOZ, 6-0,6-1; Wagner/Mariani def. Brian McNabb/Dean Bentley, BH, 6-1, 6-2; Mariani/Wagner def. Kie Wilcox/Casey King, BW, 6-1,6-4; Nick Richards/David Anderson, CMR def. Mariani/Wagner, 6-4, 7-6 (9-7). (Wagner/Mariani finish second).
Boys Doubles No. 2
Billy Wagner/Coda Tchida def. Charles Clinton/Chase Matteson, FH, 3-6, 7-5, 7-2; Wagner/Tchida def. David Currie/Austin Davis, GFH, 6-0,6-4; Ben Tengelsen/Phillip Fisher, BOZ def. Wagner/Tchida; Wagner/Tchida def. Gabe Dawson/Tyler Barth, FH; Ryan Flaherty/Matt Murphy, CMR def. Wagner/Tchida, 6-0, 6-3. (Wagner/Tchida finish fourth).
Boys Doubles No. 3
Austin Erwin/Josh Turney, CMR def. Chase Castloo/Jordan Croft, 6-3, 6-2; Castloo/Croft def. Greg Radel/Shea Koness, FH, 8-4; Brandon/Warner/Mark Cutler, BH def. Castloo/Croft, 9-8 (7-5).
Girls Singles No. 1
Amy McLain def. Lindsey Robinson, GFH, 6-0, 6-1; McLain def. Eve Xanthopolous, DIL, 6-2, 6-4; Heidi Lehman, BS def. McLain, 6-3, 6-2. (McLain finishes second).
Girls Singles No. 2
Meghann Eckerdt, BSV def. Megan Rice, 8-4; Rice def. Ashley Littlefield, ANA, 8-4; Rice def. Jenessa Hatfield, FH, 9-7; Rice def. Katie Nield, DIL, 8-3; Rice def. Eckerdt, BSV, 8-1; Sarah Urband, BOZ def. Rice, 7-5, 6-0. (Rice finishes fourth).
Girls Singles No. 3
Megan Mollgaard, BS def. Karissa Olson, 6-0, 6-1; Olson def. Geni Armstong, CAP, 9-8 (7-4); Olson def. Brittany Scheer, CMR, 9-7; Olson def. Mandy Hill, BH, 8-4; Marina Orcutt, CMR def. Olson, 6-1, 6-0.
Girls Doubles No. 1
Keelie Solomon/Steph Flatau def. Ashley Rognstad/Kelsey Manchese, BH, 8-5; Solomon/Flatau def. Annie Dotson/Nicole House, FH, 6-2, 6-3; Kerri Messmer/Lori Sibbitt, CAP def. Solomon/Flatau, 6-2, 4-6, 8-6; Solomon/Flatau def. Miriam Oligmueller/Jordan Skovro, CMR, 8-3; Valory Monaco/Tiffany Stoddard, DIL def. Flatau/Solomon, 6-2, 7-5. (Solomon/Flatau finish fourth).
Girls Doubles No. 2
Kelly Godecke/Theresa Bennett, DIL def. Kari Gorder/Katy Dow, 8-0; Christy Colyer/Melissa Berdimurat, FH def. Gorder/Dow, 8-1.
Girls Doubles No. 3
Rita Neiminen/Katie Henrichs, BS def. Jocelyn Chagnon/Molly Proctor, 8-6; Chagnon/Proctor def. Anna Oringer/Ali Regan, BW, 8-3; Kelsey Corrigan/Camille House, FH def. Chagnon/Proctor, 8-5.