by Ryan Divish
Havre Daily News Sports Editor
At some point, the Havre High tennis team will bring its entire squad to a meet. But it won't be this weekend.
After missing several members last week, the girls team will be back at full strength for Saturday's Conrad Invitational. Unfortunately, the Havre boys won't be.
The Pony boys will be missing a member of its No. 1 doubles team, its No. 2 singles player and a member of its No. 2 doubles team. Gary Wagner, Chase Castloo and Coda Tchida will be in Havre in a different sort of competition as all three will be taking the ACT assessment.
But that doesn't mean the Ponies still won't be the team to beat. Havre gets three-time defending state champ Kyle Baltrusch back after he missed last week, while Marc Mariani will move over from doubles to play the No. 2 singles slot.
"We're missing some key boys, but we should still be one of the stronger teams there along with Cut Bank," said HHS head coach George Ferguson. "We should do very well in the singles, especially with Kyle back in the lineup as well as Marc moving over for this week."
Rounding out the singles lineup will be Scott Miller at No. 3 and Ryan Kinholt at No. 4.
Havre's doubles lineup will have a very different look as Billy Wagner, who normally partners with Tchida, will now team with John Christian on the No. 1 team. The No. 2 team will feature Lucas Hamilton and Jordan Croft.
While the boys are doing some serious lineup scrambling, the girls will field a varsity lineup that could become a regular throughout the season.
Senior Amy McLain leads the singles players from her usual No. 1 slot. Megan Rice will once again play at the No. 2, while Karissa Olson continues to play No. 3. The newcomer to the group is freshman Katie Mariani, who will play at No. 4.
The doubles lineup will reunite last year's No. 1 squad of Steph Flatau and Keelie Solomon, while the usual No. 2 team of Kari Gorder and Kristi Hollingshead will round out the lineup.
"We finally have our full girls lineup for this week," Ferguson said. "It is good because Steph and Keelie will play together for the first time. Amy, Megan and Karissa can now go back to concentrating on singles again. Our girls team should do very well this weekend if they play like they have been in practice."
After last weekend's dual matches and the few weeks of practice, the prospect of a tournament format has Ferguson and players excited.
"The first tournament of the year is always big," Ferguson said. "We're looking forward to the competition. We have had a solid week of competition and we're starting to look sharper than we were last year."
The Conrad Invitational is a tournament format with a 16 player singles bracket and an eight team doubles bracket. Play begins at 8 a.m.