Havre Daily News Sports Editor
For the first two weeks of the season, the Havre High tennis team faced mostly Class B competition. The last two weeks, the Ponies have had to deal with Class AA competition.
Havre finally gets the chance to face competition from its own level when it travels to Billings for the Billings Central Invitational tennis tournament.
The Ponies will have five duals over two days, starting Friday at 12:30 p.m. when they face the host Billings Central Rams. Later in the day, Havre will face Glendive at 4:30.
As for Saturday's schedule, head coach George Ferguson said it hasn't been determined. But the possibilities are Cody, Wyo., Miles City, Hardin or Sheridan, Wyo.
"This should be a pretty competitive tournament given some of the teams in the field," Ferguson said. "And the nice thing is that we will dual at least three or four of the Eastern A schools, which is something we haven't gotten a chance to do much in the past. I am excited to get a look at some of the teams and players that we will be seeing at the state tournament."
The HHS boys are coming off a stellar weekend at the Great Falls Invitational, finishing a perfect 4-0 to remain undefeated in duals this season. The Ponies will put that undefeated record on the line again this weekend.
"Our boys team is playing very good tennis from top to bottom right now," Ferguson said. "Usually, you hope that you start to peak right at this time of year, and from what I saw last week, we are doing that.
"Now the trick will be to keep that sharpness over the next two weeks, so that we are in top form for the divisional tournament."
The Pony boys lineup will be basically the same. Kyle Baltrusch will play No. 1, with Chase Castloo at No. 2 and Scott Miller at No. 3. Ryan Kinholt will play No. 4, and freshman Todd Roe will make the trip at No. 5.
In the doubles, Marc Mariani and Gary Wagner will be in the No. 1 spot. Coda Tchida and Billy Wagner will be at No. 2, while Lucas Hamilton will team with either John Christian or Patch Wirtzberger, depending on the dual.
"I think that this tournament will provide some good competition for our boys team," Ferguson said. "Billings Central and Hardin are much improved this year, and they both are pretty top- heavy in doubles.
"Glendive is always a very solid and deep team, and they return a pair of good singles players who both competed in the state tournament last year. We should get some very good matches in both singles and doubles."
For the Pony girls, playing some Class A competition will be a refreshing change after facing some of the top AA teams in the state.
"This should also be a very competitive weekend for our girls team," Ferguson said. "Our girls have been up against some tough competition in Helena and Great Falls this past couple of weeks and they have taken some lumps. But they are playing good tennis right now."
That has Ferguson and his full Pony girls team feeling positive about the weekend.
"We are really looking forward to this weekend because I think this is only the second week of the season where we have our full varsity team going to a tournament together," he said.
In the singles, Amy McLain will be at her usual No. 1 spot, with Megan Rice at No. 2. Karissa Olson returns after a two-week hiatus to play No. 3, while Katie Mariani will play No. 4. Christen Kittelson and Molly Proctor will also make the trip for the singles.
The Ponies' doubles will consist of Steph Flatau and Keelie Solomon at No. 1, with Kari Gorder and Kristi Hollingshead at No. 2. Alexa Lipp and Jocelyn Chagnon will round out the lineup at No. 3.
"Our girls are playing well, but for some of them it is just a matter of being on the court for more than one week at a time," Ferguson said. "Our veterans like Amy, Megan, Steph and Keelie are starting to play some really solid tennis.
"But after that, we have had so many different lineups the last four weeks that it has been hard to get any consistency as a team. Hopefully, with everybody in Billings this weekend, we'll see some of that out of our team."
The Pony girls still won't see much of a break in competition.
"Teams that will be pretty tough this weekend include Billings Central," Ferguson said. "They are strong in singles with a good young sophomore in Shannon Hatzell. They also have a very good No. 2 singles player, so that will be a very challenging dual for us.
"Miles City is another team that will be tough this weekend. They have two pretty strong doubles teams returning from the state tournament last season."