The Havre High boys tennis team is no stranger to winning Central A Divisional championships. And the 2012 Blue Ponies kept the tradition of winning alive this weekend at the Central A Divisional in Bozeman – but it certainly was a close one.
The Blue Pony boys edged Livingston 44-41 for the boys team title and road a sweep of the singles and doubles championships in doing so. Meanwhile, the HHS girls finished in a tie for third with 21 points, but were just two points out of second. Havre tied Anaconda with 21 points, while Lewistown finished with 23. Livingston won its third straight Central A crown with 58 points.
In all, the Ponies advanced just four players to state, with Justin Jensen heading to the Class A meet as the boys singles champion in the Central A. Seniors Simon McCann and Brayden Grimson advanced with a Central A doubles title Friday night, while sophomore Brandy Lambourne finished third in girls singles, advancing to her first state tourney later this week in Great Falls.
“Divisionals is always a double-edged sword for the coaches,” Blue Pony head coach George Ferguson, who’s now guided HHS to nine boys titles in his 10 years in the Central A said. “On one hand, we’re so happy for our boys team to have pulled out such a close victory. You’re happy for all the kids who placed. Happy for a Justin Jensen, who’s been trying to win this thing for three years now, and for a Simon McCann, who’s going for the first time in his career and he’s a senior.
“But on the other side of the coin, the season came to an end this weekend for a lot of our kids and that’s always tough,” he added. “We were really close to pushing about six more players through to state, but we just came up short in a few matches So divisional is always a bitter-sweet tournament. But at the end of the day, we took 20 kids down to Bozeman and every single one of them did a great job and I couldn’t be more proud of both our teams for how they played and how they represented Havre High tennis this weekend.”
Jensen was on a mission this weekend. He cruised to Friday night’s final, as all schools played a long second day of the tournament after rain interrupted on Thursday evening and Friday morning. In the championship match however, the sun was out and Jensen, who’d finished fourth and second, respectively the last two years, battled an old foe in Livingston’s Dallas Lussier. Lussier had beaten Jensen two straight weeks and was up a set before Jensen dug deep and stormed back to win by scores of 4-6, 7-5, 6-4.
“So proud of Gus (Jensen),” Ferguson said. “He has had his share of trouble with Dallas, but he just wasn’t going to be denied a third time. He stepped up and beat him when it mattered most. And he wanted to win this tournament badly. He’s worked really hard for this and I’m really happy for him. He made it all work this weekend. It was a special weekend for him.”
Things weren’t nearly as difficult for Grimson and McCann, who were never tested, even in the semifinals and finals against two quality Livingston teams. For Grimson, it was his third trip to the doubles finals with three different partners, and his second title. He won the 2010 title with Danny Roe, while he and Keenan Dolezal finished second a year ago. He and McCann, a three-year varsity player, had only played a handful of matches together this season, but it proved to be the right combination in the end.
“They are good friends and the chemistry quickly worked for them,” Ferguson said of his senior doubles team. “They really dominated this tournament. I’m just really proud of what Brayden has accomplished in his career. He’s a tremendous doubles player. And I’m very proud of Simon and happy for him. He’s earned this. He’s been patient with his game and he’s put in the work. It was a lot of fun to watch those two this weekend.”
It wasn’t all smiles for the Pony boys however. The No. 2 doubles tandem of Blaine Grisak and Nick Rhines came within a mere few points of also reach the state tournament, losing a three-set heartbreaker to a Livingston duo in the consolation semifinals. It was a tough way to end a career for Grisak, though he and Rhines showed heart by battling back after a first-round loss.
Sophomore Ned Malone also came agonizingly close to reaching the state tourney. He nearly upset No. 3 seed Jordan Snapp of Lewistown in the quarterfinals, then in the consolation semifinals, battled Anaconda’s No. 1 singles player right down to the wire.
“Those are the tough one’s,” Ferguson said. “You feel so bad for a Blaine Grisak, a senior who’s given everything and then some to our program. But I’m also very proud of the grit and toughness he and Nick showed this weekend. They never gave up and in the end that’s all we can ask. It was tough on Ned too, but he’s a younger player and he really took huge steps this weekend. Ned is a guy we’re going to see in the state tournament the next two years.
“And all of our boys did a tremendous job,” Ferguson added. “This was a total team effort because all 10 boys scored a point or more for us. That’s special, and they all mattered because for the second year in a row, the team title came right down to a few points here or there. So I’m just really proud of what these 10 boys did this weekend and all season.”
Havre’s route to the championship was indeed a team effort. The Ponies went 3-1 in singles in the first round, as senior Bill Wagner also pulled out two big points with a three-set win. Zach Hellegaard bounced back from a loss to Lussier with a win in the consolation round and the tandem of J.J. Hovet and Brian Smith chipped in with a doubles win in the consolation bracket.
Pony girls get close
The final score may not reflect it, but the Blue Pony girls were closer to a championship then one might think.
Lambourne led the way for Havre with a third-place finish in singles. Just a sophomore, she reached the semifinals before falling, then had to take out junior teammate Jade McCormick to reach the consolation final. Once there, and at about 11 p.m. on the MSU indoor courts, Lambourne beat Lewistown stalwart Jeanna Mane to wrap up a stellar divisional tournament.
McCormick also played a huge role for Havre in singles. It was just her third tournament playing singles, yet she won a tough three-setter in the first round, then rebounded from a loss to eventual champion Macy Ricketts by winning two straight matches, and coming within an unfortunate matchup with Lambourne from making the state tournament.
All four of Havre’s singles players scored points as both sophomore Shannon Herring and freshman Tatiana Ralph won loser-out matches. Herring’s tournament eventually ended at the hands of McCormick.
“It was kind of a rollercoaster ride for our girls team,” Ferguson said. “The singles players all played the best tennis of their lives, yet we couldn’t make us much progress as we would have liked because the draw kind of got in our way. I have no doubt had Jade been on the other side of the bracket, she’d be going to state too because she played that well. And Shannon and Tatiana did a great job. I was really impressed with how well they played in all their matches. It was a great tournament for Brandy. She had tough battles in every match and she’s only been playing competitive tennis for a little over a year. So for her to get this far, it’s just so impressive. She was phenomenal for us this weekend.”
The rollercoaster Ferguson spoke of was mainly in doubles. Livingston ran away with the team title, but Havre would have been right there had it not been for a few close matches that just didn’t go the Ponies’ way – and they were all against the Rangers.
Havre’s No. 1 duo of Jennifer Cichosz and Lainey Changon lost back-to-back three setters to the Rangers, one in the semifinals and another in the consolation semifinals. Either win would have got the tandem, who’s only played together for a few weeks to the state tournament. Meanwhile, sophomores Breck Don and Ellery Bresler pulled off a miracle comeback in the first round against an eventual placing Livingston team, then lost to another Livingston in a three-setter in the loser-out bracket. Don and Bresler also lost a three-set heartbreaker to the top duo from Anaconda in the quarterfinals, and all those matches took place in a short amount of time on Friday. HHS didn’t get a point from the sophomore team of Haley Graham and Morgan Jappe, but they too battled in two tough matches.
“We thought we had a chance to get two doubles teams to state,” Ferguson said. “But we didn’t quite win the close ones against Livingston…and in three different matches, they were all really close. We just didn’t get a couple of points or shots to go our way or this tournament would have looked very different for our girls at the end of Friday. And that’s the game of tennis.
“Still, I’m so proud of all of six of those doubles players,” he added. “They really showed a lot of heart and character this weekend. They fought to the end in every match. Lainey and Jenn and Breck and Ellery all fought some tough teams right to the end and I’m nothing but proud of them. They have nothing to hang their heads about. All of our girls did our program proud this weekend and all of them are coming back next year and that’s really exciting.”
Now, four Blue Ponies will have a short turnaround before heading to Great Falls for the Class A state tournament, which runs Thursday and Friday at various sites in the Electric City.
Havre 44, Livingston 41, Lewistown 28, Anaconda 16
Championship - Justin Jensen, Havre, def. Dallas Lussier, Livingston, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4; Consolation Final – Andrew Bruno, LEW def. Geoff Dierenefeldt, ANA.
Championship - Grimson/McCann, Havre, def.. Bowden/Snow, Livingston, 6-2, 6-1; Consolation Final – Richards/Richards, LIV def. Butcher/Songer, LEW.
Individual Havre Results
Justin Jensen (1st Place)
1st rd – def. Andrew Bruno, LEW, 6-1, 6-1; Quarterfinals – def. John Potenburg, LIV, 6-0, 6-1; Semifinals – def. Geoff Diernefeldt, ANA, 6-1, 6-2; Championship – def. Dallas Lussier, LIV, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4.
1st rd – def. Noble Vance, LIV, 6-3, 6-1; Quarterfinals – lost to Jordan Snapp, LEW, 6-4, 7-5, Consolation 2nd rd – def. Zach Hellegaard, HAV, 6-4, 6-2; Consolation Quarters – def. Craig Smith, ANA, 6-1, 0-6, 6-3; Consolation Semis – lost to Diernefeldt, ANA, 7-6 (5), 6-2.
1st rd – lost to Lussier, 6-2, 6-0; Consolation 1st rd – def. Bryson Behl, LEW, 6-3, 6-1; Consol;ation 2nd rd – lost to Malone, HAV, 6-4, 6-2.
1st rd – def. Zach Hould, LEW, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4; Quarterfinals – lost to Diernefeldt, ANA, 6-4, 6-4; Consolation 2nd rd – lost to Bruno, LEW, 6-2, 6-3.
Brayden Grimson/Simon McCann (1st Place)
1st rd – Bye; Quarterfinals – def. Zinder/Boggs, ANA, 6-1, 6-4; Semifinals – def. Richards/Richards, LIV, 6-1, 6-2; Championship – def. Bowden/Snow, LIV, 6-2, 6-1.
Blaine Grisak/Nick Rhines
1st rd – lost to Perry/Kletter, LIV, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2; Consolation 2nd rd – def. Armour/Peterson, LEW, 6-4, 6-4; Consolation Quarters – def. Perry/Kletter, LIV, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3; Consolation Semis – lost to Richards/Richards, LIV, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4.
J.J. Hovet/Brian Smith
1st rd – lost to Richards/Richards, LIV, 6-2, 6-0; Consolation 2nd rd – def. Zinder/Boggs, ANA, 6-4, 6-2; Consolation Quarters – lost to Butcher/Songer, LEW, 6-2, 6-7 (6), 6-1.
Livingston 58, Lewistown 23, Havre 21, Anaconda 21
Championship - Macy Ricketts, Livingston, def. Dylan Balanda, Livingston, 6-0, 6-1; Consolation Final – Brandy Lambourne, HAV def. Jeanna Mane, LEW, 7-6 (6), 6-2.
Championship - DeBoer/Seymour, Livingston, def. Monger/Nielsen, Lewistown, 6-4, 2-6, 6-1; Richards/Ellingson, LIV def. VanMeel/Salle, ANA.
Individual Havre Results
Brandy Lambourne (3rd Place)
1st rd – def. Sonia McLain, LIV, 6-3, 6-3; Quarterfinals – def. Jeanna Mane, LEW, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2; Semifinals – lost to Dylan Balanda, LIV, 6-1, 6-1; Consolation Semis – def. Jade McCormick, HAV, 6-2, 6-1. Consolation Final – def. Mane, LEW, 7-6 (6), 6-2.
1st rd – def. Kayla Olson, LEW, 1-6, 6-1, 6-0; Quarterfinals – lost to Macy Ricketts, LIV, 6-0, 6-1; Consolation 2nd rd – def. Shannon Herring, HAV, 6-4, 6-1; Consolation Quarters – def. Emily Buckern, LIV, 6-1, 6-3; Consolation Semis – lost to Lambourne, HAV, 6-2, 6-1.
1st rd – lost to Ellie Krueger, ANA, 6-1, 6-0; Consolation 1st rd – def. Hannah Thomas, LEW, 6-4, 6-1; Consolation 2nd rd – lost to McCormick, HAV, 6-4, 6-1.
1st rd – lost to Balanda, LIV, 6-0, 6-0; Consolation 1st rd – def. Brianna Peterson, LEW, 6-1, 6-0; Consolation 2nd rd – lost to Mane, LEW, 6-1, 6-1.
Lainey Chagnon/Jennifer Cichosz
1st rd – Bye; Quarterfinals – def. VanMeel/Salle, ANA, 6-4, 7-5; Semifinals – lost to Seymour/Deboer, LIV, 6-4, 2-6, 6-1; Consolation Semis – lost to Richards/Ellingson, LIV, 6-1, 4-6, 6-1.
Ellery Bresler/Breck Don
1st rd – def. Richards/Ellingson, LIV, 4-6, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (2); Quarterfinals – lost to Knadler/Johnson, ANA, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2; Consolation 2nd rd – lost to Kelly/Dobrowski, LIV, 6-2, 5-7, 6-1.
Haley Graham/Morgan Jappe
1st rd – lost to Kinderzki/Thomas, LEW, 6-2, 7-6 (3); Consolation 2nd rd – lost to VanMeel/Salle, ANA, 6-3, 6-1.