By Kim Staudinger
LEWISTOWN For the Havre boys' tennis team, winning is becoming a tradition that has no end in sight.
Saturday marked the second-straight title for Sam Dierman's Blue Ponies, who scored a staggering 39 points to edge out Whitefish by a mere three points.
The 39 points were the most accumulated by a Class A state boys tennis team in at least 13 years, Dierman said.
That total is also 11 more than Havre scored last year at state when their expectations to win were higher.
"Last year we knew we had a really good shot at winning," Dierman said. "I didn't expect it this year. I only expected us to score 20-25 points."
Dierman knew that Whitefish was going to be his team's main competition.
"Whitefish was unbelievable," he said. "I thought Whitefish could easily win both the singles and doubles titles to score 32 points. I thought 32 points would be insurmountable."
Dierman said he knew Havre had this year's championship wrapped up when Seth Maristuen and Mike Frey defeated Hamilton's Aaron Riley and Ryan Wells 6-1, 7-6 (5) in the consolation semifinals.
Cody McLain led the Pony barrage, placing second in boys singles. McLain's road to the finals was not an easy one, though, as he faced a very tough competitor in Hamilton's Todd Kenley in the semifinals.
"That was the best match I played all year," McLain said. "I was loose and relaxed. In the first two matches, I was tense and nervous."
McLain dropped a set in each of his first two opening matches, but finished with victories over Miles City's John Hanson and Whitefish's Aaron Fey to advance to the semis.
Also placing second was the doubles team of Tyler Croft and Jeremy Heninger and teammates Frey and Maristuen added a third-place finish.
"Our doubles teams have daily fought it out in practice," Dierman said. "It was great to see them end in this way."
Despite the solid play of these five players, Dierman attributes the championship to two other players on his team Daine Solomon and Andrew McLain.
"These two boys were the difference," Dierman said. "They didn't place, but they scored four points, and we won by three. Quite simply, without them, we wouldn't have won state.
Cody McLain also echoed Dierman's accolades of Solomon and his cousin, Andrew.
"They did what they needed, what they came for," he said. "They did what we needed them to do."
For Havre, the surprising play of all its boys came at the right time.
"We played our best at the right time at the end of the year," Dierman said.
Despite only scoring three points, Dierman was quite pleased with the girls' showing at state.
"At the beginning of this season, I was hoping we could qualify someone for state," Dierman said, noting the effort of his three seniors who qualified for the tournament. "The three seniors Breyon Briese, Samantha Velk, and Nikki Baltrusch were outstanding all year.
"They were great leaders and developed into great tennis players as well. Their leadership will be very difficult to replace."