by Ryan Divish
Havre Daily News Sports Editor
The Havre High tennis teams were in search of some different and better competition after dominating the last three weeks against basically the same three schools. The Ponies found what they were looking for at the prestigious Helena Invitational.
Havre faced the top players from Class AA and Class A this weekend with some success.
In the boys tourney, senior Marc Mariani led the way, winning the No. 2 singles division tournament with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Brian LaSueur of Billings Senior. Normally a doubles player, Mariani made the transition seamlessly.
"Marc Mariani was very impressive this weekend," said HHS head coach George Ferguson. "He moved to No. 2 singles and won the tournament.
"On Saturday, he had to beat a very good freshman in LaSueur, who is a solid player. He played tremendous tennis. It just goes to show that wherever or whatever Marc plays, he is going to be solid every single time he steps on the court."
Havre's No. 1 player, Kyle Baltrusch, shook off an early loss to win three straight matches and advance to the consolation semifinals. He was finally beaten by Tanner Sutton of Billings West 8-6 in a tough match.
"Kyle Baltrusch is someone else who I think got his swagger back this weekend," Ferguson said. "He was in a very tough draw, but played some very good tennis. He was simply amazing against Sutton. Even though he came up a little short, I think that that match got Kyle back on track for the rest of the season."
Havre's No. 3 player, Scott Miller, finished 1-2 with an 8-1 win over Jake Griffith of CMR.
In the doubles, the No. 3 team of Lucas Hamilton and Ryan Kinholt played solid tennis, advancing to the championship of the No. 3 doubles tourney, where they lost a tough 7-5, 7-5 match to Dylan Brown and Will Hawkins of Missoula Hellgate. After getting a first-round bye, Hamilton and Kinholt won tiebreakers in the quarterfinals and semifinals to advance.
In the No. 2 doubles tournament, the team of Chase Castloo and John Christian rallied from a first-round loss to finish fourth. Castloo and Christian dropped their opener to Ryan Brady and Gary Fox of Billings West in a heartbreaking 9-7 loss. Following the loss, they ripped off three straight wins before falling to Wade Houland and David Shapiro in a tiebreaker.
Havre's No. 1 team of Coda Tchida and Billy Wagner lost both of their matches on the weekend.
"Our boys doubles teams had a good weekend as well," Ferguson said. "Lucas and Ryan and Chase and John just had outstanding weekends. They played extremely well. Coda and Billy played well despite what the scores said."
The Ponies' lineup was a little different with the absence of senior Gary Wagner, but Ferguson was still pleased with his boys' performances.
"We scored 39 team points, which would have been close to winning the tournament again if team scores would have been kept," he said. "We placed in three brackets and we had some really good moments, especially considering the lineup changes."
While the boys were missing one key player, the Pony girls were missing five varsity players. But the Havre girls persevered and had some solid performances for the weekend.
Freshman Katie Mariani continued to play well, finishing third in the girls No. 3 singles tourney. Mariani lost a tough quarterfinal match to Hanna Ralston of Missoula Hellgate, but reeled off three straight wins in the loser-out bracket to advance to the consolation finals where she easily dispatched with Patricia Langles 8-1.
"Katie Mariani continued her great start to the season by winning four matches in a row on Saturday to finish third in the No. 3's," Ferguson said. "She went up against some very good players and she just kept on winning. She is very mentally tough for a freshman. I think this weekend showed that she is quickly becoming a very good player."
Havre's No. 1 singles player, Amy McLain, couldn't replicate her second-place finish from last year, but still had a solid tourney. McLain lost a tough 6-4, 6-4 match to Helena High's Reina Satre-Meloy in the quarterfinals. In the loser-out bracket, she rolled to a pair of wins before falling to longtime rival Eve Xanthopolous of Dillon in a heartbreaker.
"Amy played in an extremely tough No. 1 bracket," Ferguson said. "She ran into a very good player, Satre-Meloy, on Friday night and she lost a gut-wrenching match to Eve on Saturday afternoon. Although she didn't do as well as she wanted to this weekend, Amy is right on track and her play shows that she is as good as anybody in the state regardless of class or age right now."
Megan Rice, Havre's No. 2 singles player, finished with a 1-2 record, defeating Shaina Robbins of Billings Skyview. She was eliminated from the tourney in a tough 8-6 loss to Aubrey Ler of Bozeman.
"Megan's scores also didn't indicate how well she played," Ferguson said. "She played some very good tennis, but she was up against some very good players. Overall, I think our girls singles are very, very strong right now and I am really happy with where they are at this point in the season."
In the doubles, Havre was without its normal No. 1 and No. 2 doubles teams. Young players Christen Kittelson, Jocelyn Chagnon, Molly Proctor and Angie Maxwell had to fill in.
Kittelson and Chagnon lost a pair of tough matches, while Proctor and Maxwell also lost both of their matches.
"Our doubles teams played very well considering the situation," Ferguson said. "They were up against the best competition they've ever played against."
Going into the tournament without five of its normal varsity players wasn't exactly easy, but Ferguson still found plenty of positives.
"I thought we also did pretty well considering we were missing some key players and we only had seven girls," Ferguson said. "I was pretty happy with our results this weekend."
For Ferguson and his team, the higher level of competition is the key.
"Hopefully down the road, we'll see that this weekend paid off for us," Ferguson said. "Playing at this high of a level of tennis should make everyone better later in the season."
Results For Helena Invite
Boys Singles #1 Kyle Baltrusch
1st Rd - Jake Behrens, MBS def. Kyle Baltrusch, 8-0; Loser-out - Baltrusch def. Calvin Lee, BUT, 8-3; Loser-out - Baltrusch def. Chris Baurle, MS, 8-0; Loser-out - Baltrusch def. Fabian Wummell, LIV, 8-0; Consolation Semis - Tanner Sutton, BW, def. Baltrusch, 8-6.
Boys Singles #2 Marc Mariani (1st Place)
1st Rd - Mariani def. Nick Huang, BUT, 8-1; Quarterfinals - Mariani def. John Hermes, MS, 6-3, 6-0; Semis - Mariani def. Brian Knutson, GFH, 6-1, 6-1; Championship - Mariani def. Brian LaSueur, BS, 6-4, 6-4.
Boys Singles #3 Scott Miller
1st Rd - Jason Scott, MH def. Miller, 8-3; Loser-out - Miller def. Jake Griffith, CMR, 8-1; Loser-out - Adam Wetzel, BW def. Miller, 8-6.
Boys Doubles #1 Coda Tchida/Billy Wagner
1st Rd - Brady Bentley/Bryan McNabb, BUT def. Tchida/Wagner, 8-2; Loser-out - Ben Gardner/Lander Jewitt, HH def. Tchida/Wagner, 9-8 (10-8).
Boys Doubles #2
Chase Castloo/John Christian (4th Place)
1st Rd - Ryan Brady/Gary Fox, BW def. Castloo/Christian, 9-7; Loser-out - Castloo/Christian def. Nate Powell/Evan Allen, CAP, 8-0; Loser-out - Castloo/Christian def. Justin Folsom/Zach Wheeler, HH, 8-4; Loser-out - Castloo/Christian def. Brandon Warner/Cody Peoples, BUT, 8-3; Consolation Semis - Castloo/Christian def. Austin Erwin/Josh Tierney, CMR, 8-6; Consolation Final - Wade Houland/David Shapiro, BOZ, def. Castloo/Christian, 6-4, 2-6, 7-5.
Boys Doubles #3
Lucas Hamilton/Ryan Kinholt (2nd Place)
1st Rd - Bye; Quarterfinals - Hamilton/Kinholt def. Ross Carlson/Mac Tilt, BOZ, 6-2, 4-6, 7-3; Semis - Hamilton/Kinholt def. Tony Lee/Austin Tootell, MBS, 1-6, 6-4, 9-7; Championship - Dylan Brown/Will Hawkins, MH def. Hamilton/Kinholt, 7-5; 7-5.
Girls Singles #1 Amy McLain
1st Rd - Amy McLain def. Julia Bailey, MBS, 8-1; Quarterfinals - Reina Satre-Meloy, HH def. McLain, 6-4, 6-4; Loser-out - McLain def. Annah Orrasmith, LIV, 8-5; Loser-out - McLain def. Margo Lentz, MH, 8-0; Consolation Semis - Eve Xanthopolous, DIL, def. McLain, 9-8 (10-8).
Girls Singles #2 Megan Rice
1st Rd - Rice def. Shaina Robbins, BSV, 8-1; Quarterfinals - Charlie Murphy, CMR def. Rice, 6-1, 6-1; Loser-out - Aubrey Ler, BOZ def. Rice, 8-6.
Girls Singles #3 Katie Mariani (3rd Place)
1st Rd Mariani def. Brittany Sheer, CMR, 8-1; Quartefinals - Hanna Ralston, MH def. Mariani, 6-4, 7-5; Loser-out - Mariani def. Brittany Smith, GFH, 8-3; Loser-out - Mariani def. CJ Wisler, BSV, 9-7; Consolation Semis - Mariani def. Sarah Johnson, BS, 8-2; Consolation Final - Mariani def. Patricia Langles, BW, 8-1.
Girls Doubles #2
Christen Kittelson/Jocelyn Chagnon
1st Rd - Samantha Cypher/Darcy McDougal, DIL def. Kittleson/Chagnon, 8-4; Loser-out - Alex Dixon/Hannah Danes, KAL def. Kittleson/Chagnon, 8-6.
Girls Doubles #3 Molly Proctor/Angie Maxwell
1st rd - Shannon Judge/Lydia Decker, DIL def. Proctor/Maxwell, 8-1; Loser-out - Emily Rolston/Laura Crandell, MH def. Proctor/Maxwell, 8-3.