Havre Daily News Staff
Recently, the Havre High tennis teams have dominated the Central A Divisional tennis tournament, winning by landslide margins. But this weekend in Lewistown, both the Blue Pony boys and the HHS girls proved they can win the close ones too. On Saturday afternoon, the HHS boys claimed their 14th straight Central A championship by outscoring Lewistown 48-46, while the Blue Pony girls re-claimed the Central A title by scoring 47 points to Livingston’s 45 points. Livingston also finished a distant third in the boys race, while host Lewistown finished third on the girls side. “I’m really proud of our kids for what they did this weekend,” HHS head coach George Ferguson said. “The boys rallied to win on Saturday, which wasn’t an easy thing to do, and the girls won some very big matches on Saturday morning, which is what they needed to do to keep the lead we had. “This tournament has seemed easy for us in years past,” he added. “But nothing was easy this weekend, and our kids really stepped up and proved that they can win the matches when big things were on the line. It was a lot of fun to watch.” On the girls side, Havre won its fourth Central A title in five years, as only last season did the Blue Ponies finish second. And the Ponies truly earned the team title this season, doing it without an individual champion. In singles, Blue Pony senior Katie Mariani lost a match for the first time in three years at the Central A tournament as her arch rival, Livingston’s Anna Arrasmith beat her 6-2, 3-6, 6-0 in the championship match. It was the 10th meeting between Mariani and Arrasmith in their career, and the third year in a row the two have played for the Central A title, with Mariani winning in 2006 and 2007. “Katie had a great tournament,” Ferguson said. “But the thing is, when those two play each other, they are so evenly matched that you just never know what’s going to happen. It was just a week ago that Katie beat Anna, and it was Anna’s day on Saturday, but not by much. And it really doesn’t change anything as far as state goes. They are the two best players in Class A and they are both trying to win a state championship and Saturday’s match doesn’t change that.” HHS also got a big boost in its quest to claim the Central A title from junior Hope Hedges, who rebounded from a quarterfinal loss to Arrasmith by finishing third. Along the way, Hedges beat three top seeds, including No. 1 players from Butte Central, Lewistown and Anaconda, and she did it convincing fashion. The Ponies also qualified their top two doubles teams for the state tournament as the No. 1 duo of Courtney Kinholt and Haley Donovan beat teammates Morgan McCann and Jolee Landgraf in the consolation match. Both teams reached the semifinals before losing but came back to win their next match and play in the consolation final. And as close as the final score of the team race wound up being, HHS could not have captured the title without the important points scored by Christina Plum in singles and Haley McLain and Mikaela Lipp in doubles. “Hope had a huge weekend for us,” Ferguson said. “She may be our No. 2, but she proved without any question that she was not only one of the best players in the Central A, but that she is going to be a force at the state tournament this year. She just played great tennis. “And there is no question that our doubles teams really grew up this weekend,” he added. “All three of them played outstanding tennis and to get two teams to state when you have three teams that are so evenly matched, that was big for us. Almost everyone on our team scored points for us this weekend, and we needed every single one of them to win. So it was a true team effort from our girls and I’m really proud of all of them.” On the boys side, Havre also needed its entire team to edge a strong Lewistown team in order to continue its remarkable Central A streak. Havre trailed Lewistown by four points heading into Saturday, but a doubles title by Todd Roe and Kyle Miller gave Havre a lift. Roe and Miller dropped just one game in three matches over the weekend, and they beat Livingston’s Josh Chavez and Gabe Pritchett 6-0, 6-0 in the championship match. Havre also got a second-place finish from junior Shane Kemmer in singles to close the gap even more. Kemmer reached the singles championship for the third straight year, and he captured the title last season. But on Saturday, he ran into a buzz saw in Lewistown senior Justin Hartford, and Hartford came out on top, 6-2, 6-2. “Todd and Kyle were so dominant this weekend,” Ferguson said. “They weren’t even tested and they really showed that they are one of the favorites at state. And Shane played well against really good players all the way through. He was the No. 1 overall seed, but he had one of the toughest draws in the tournament, and he played great. Justin just played a little better in the final. But Shane is still one of the guys to beat at state. There’s no doubt in my mind there. “Still, the big thing for us was what guys like Mason Sheppard, David Zentmire, Brad Hanson, Keenan Dolezal, Nate Christianson and Nolan Holden did. They all won huge matches, and without everyone of them, we wouldn’t have brought that trophy home. It was that close this weekend, and I just can’t say enough about how this team performed, especially on Saturday.” Indeed, Sheppard’s fourth-place finish in singles loomed large for HHS. He reached the semifinals before losing to Hartford, and his dominating win over Lewistown’s Shane Parker in the next match proved to be one of the deciding points in the tournament. The same can be said for Zentmire and Hanson’s fourth-place finish in doubles, as well as Dolezal’s first-round win in singles on Friday, and Christianson and Holden's come-from-behind win in the loser- out bracket on Saturday morning. Havre needed every one of those points to beat Lewistown and they got them from one of its most inexperienced teams in years. I’m really happy for Mason Sheppard," Ferguson said. “He won some big matches this weekend and he is a big part of why we were able to be divisional champions. Plus, we got points from a freshman in singles and a doubles team that had never played at divisionals before. We came within one match of getting three doubles teams to state, and seniors like Brad and David really did what they had to do to help us win. This is a special championship for us because of the way we won it and I’m just really proud of this whole team and happy for them.” Havre will now take six boys and six girls to Thursday and Friday’s Class A state tournament in Polson and Ronan. The tournament gets under way at 8 a. m. on Thursday and both HHS teams will be looking to continue a streak of earning a trophy at state. The Pony boys have brought home hardware 11 straight times and the HHS girls are working on a streak of four straight state trophies.