by Ryan Divish
Havre Daily News Sports Editor
It was like the Havre High tennis team never left the court. The Ponies picked up right where they left off after last season, rolling to three dual wins each at the Cut Bank Invitational dual meet on Saturday to open the 2005 season.
Both the Havre High boys and girls teams finished with perfect 3-0 records for the day, which was more than pleasing to second-year head coach George Ferguson.
"For the first week of the season and having limited practices, I am pretty pleased with how everybody played in Cut Bank," Ferguson said. "We are still trying to get past the winter rust, but the kids' effort was good. I thought for the most part everybody played pretty well in some tough conditions."
Havre opened the tournament in dominant fashion, sweeping Central A rival Lewistown. The Pony boys blanked the Eagles 7-0, even without No. 1 player Kyle Baltrusch in the lineup. Chase Castloo, Scott Miller, John Christian and Ryan Kinholt all scored wins in the singles matches. In the doubles matches, Havre's No. 1 team of Marc Mariani and Gary Wagner scored an easy win, as did the teams of Coda Tchida and Billy Wagner and Jordan Croft and Lucas Hamilton.
In the girls match, Havre also had little trouble with the Eagles, even with a different lineup. Havre swept the singles as Megan Rice, Karissa Olson, Christen Kittelson and Katie Mariani all notching wins.
In the doubles, Havre won two of three matches. Havre's No. 1 singles player Amy McLain made the move over to doubles look easy, teaming with Keelie Solomon to defeat Katie Jackson and Merrick Carpenter 8-1. Havre's No. 2 double team of Kari Gorder and Kristi Hollingshead also picked up a win.
In their second dual, Havre easily dispatched the Conrad Cowboys 6-1 in both matches. Havre's lone loss in the boys dual came in the singles as Chase Castloo was upset by Jeremiah Pearson 8-7 in a tiebreaker. In the remainder of the matches, the Ponies lost just three games.
In the girls match, Havre's lone loss came in the No. 4 singles match as Brooke Johns edged Molly Proctor 8-6. McLain returned to her singles spot to pick up an easy 8-3 win. Solomon moved over to singles and notched a win, while Rice and Olson teamed up in the doubles to get a win.
In their final dual of the day, both Havre teams were sternly tested by a solid Cut Bank squad. The Ponies managed to pick up 4-3 wins in both duals.
The Pony boys were in a dogfight with the defending Class B champion Wolves. Both Castloo and Miller suffered hardfought losses in the singles, but Havre got a lift as Kinholt defeated Brett Cline. The Ponies secured the win, sweeping all three doubles matches.
The Havre won two of four singles matches as McLain and Mariani picked up wins. In the doubles, the Ponies won two of three matches as Gorder and Hollingshead picked up an 8-2 win, while Alexa Lipp and Jocelyn Chagnon defeated Laura Gregg and Melissa Helvik 8-1.
"One of the things we hopefully take away from this is that we have a lot of work to do," Ferguson said. "We lost some matches that we probably wouldn't normally lose and that shows me that we still have a long way to go to get back to being in top form. But it is early and there is a lot of time to improve."
Still, there was plenty to be excited about for him, particularly the play of his younger players.
"Our young kids impressed me a lot," Ferguson said. "Katie Mariani and Ryan Kinholt were two that played really well this weekend. They looked really sharp in all three wins that they each picked up for us.
"Kari and Kristi were also impressive this weekend," he added. "Last year, they played No. 2 doubles at this tournament and struggled. This year they were really dominant, so they have really come a long way in one year."
The Pony upperclassmen were also solid, despite not having Baltrusch and Steph Flatau.
"Our veteran kids also looked pretty sharp so far," Ferguson said. "They will obviously get much better as the weeks go on. It was a good start for our team. We got some things accomplished, and that is all I can ask for the first week of the season."