The Lewistown Invitational tennis tournament isn’t just another ordinary date on the Havre Blue Ponies’ schedule. Instead, in veteran head coach George Ferguson’s eyes, the Lewistown Invite is the start of the divisional tournament.
Pony boys and girls tennis teams will get started Saturday when they play their final four duals of the regular season in Lewistown. Havre will dual Livingston, Butte Central, Anaconda and Lewistown on Saturday.
“The Lewistown Invite is big for a number of reasons,” Ferguson said. “We play all our divisional rivals head-to-head so those matches are part of the formula we use for seeding the divisional tournament. On top of that, it’s the last live matches these kids will get before the first round of the divisional tournament, so it’s imperative they are playing well.
“This is the time of year when we want to peak,” he added. “That’s what we’ve been working for. What we’ve been building up to, so hopefully that all happens on Saturday.”
Normally, Ferguson’s lineups are set for the Lewistown Invite, but he says some changes could still be made this weekend.
On the girls side, junior Lainey Chagnon will be gone for a family obligation, so Jennifer Cichosz will play singles. Chagnon and Cichosz are set to play doubles together at the divisional tournament. Brandy Lambourne will play No. 1 singles for the Ponies and Jade McCormick will play No. 2. Shannon Herring is Havre’s No. 3 singles player, but she’ll move to No. 4 this week. Tatianna Ralph will also play singles next week at divisional but she’ll team with Jordy Warren in doubles this week.
In doubles, Breck Don and Ellery Bresler will move up to No. 1 and Haley Graham and Morgan Jappe will move up to No. 2.
“It’s not a bad thing to have those two doubles teams move up a slot this week,” Ferguson said. “The competition will be exactly what they need to get ready for divisionals, and I’m confident that they will still do very well this weekend. Our girls team has started to play really well, and I think they’ll all even play better this weekend.”
Havre’s boys roster for the divisional meet is set and all 10 Ponies will make the trip to Lewistown. However, Ferguson said the lineup isn’t a sure thing as of yet, and final decisions will be based on how things go on Saturday.
The Ponies are set at the top with Justin Jensen at No. 1 singles and Brayden Grimson and Simon McCann at No. 1 doubles. Ned Malone is also set in singles as is senior Bill Wagner. Havre’s third doubles team of J.J. Hovet and Brian Smith are also a lock, but Ferguson said, from there he may experiment with the doubles lineup at No. 2, with senior Blaine Grisak, junior Nick Rhines and sophomore Zach Hellegaard.
“Both Blaine and Zach are very comfortable playing singles,” Ferguson said. “So what we have to do this weekend is finally settle on what our best option is for that other doubles team. I feel like we have the strongest 10 players in the Central A, but we need to go to divisionals with the strongest team too. So we’ll play a few different combos on Saturday and make a decision based off of how they all do. But whichever way we go, the important thing is, our boys team is playing well, and hopefully they will take it to another level with these last four matches in Lewistown.”
As for the competition this weekend, the Ponies will be up against strong players on every team. Livingston has both a solid group in boys and girls, while the Lewistown girls are also good at the top of the lineup. The Lewistown boys’ strength lies in doubles. Anaconda is an unknown as the Copperheads were not in the Central A a year ago, and this is the first year the school has offered boys tennis, while the Butte Central boys are also very strong in doubles.
“We will get quality matches in every dual we play,” Ferguson said. “That’s for certain. The head-to-head matches with Lewistown, Livingston and Anaconda are huge for us, especially Anaconda and Livingston because we haven’t played them this year. So the kids need to go out and do their very best and I’m confident they all will. They know what’s at stake this weekend. And then we’ll have a pretty good idea of where we stand heading to Bozeman next week.”
Havre plays its first dual in Lewistown on Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m. The tournament will run right up until dark. The Ponies travel to the Central A Divisional next Thursday and Friday in Bozeman.