By Kim Staudinger
After yet another week of cold temperatures and few practices outside, the Havre High tennis team is braving the weather for its second invitational of the season.
The Ponies leave for Conrad Saturday for a four-team match. Along with Havre and Conrad, Lewistown and Cut Bank will attend. The meet will run like a true invite, with a 16-player singles bracket and an eight-team doubles bracket, Havre head coach Sam Dierman said.
Ten boys and 10 girls will make the trip for Havre, with four singles players for each and three doubles teams.
The boys' squad is led by seniors Mike Frey, Andrew McLain and Seth Maristuen; juniors Cody McLain, Jeremy Heninger and Ian Spencer; sophomore Daine Solomon; and freshmen Kyle Baltrusch, Gary Wagner, Marc Mariani and Lucas Hamilton. The final cut to 10 depends on the health of certain players.
For the girls, eight juniors, one sophomore and one freshman will travel to Conrad. The juniors leading the way are Samantha Shrauger, Crystal Pyrak, Mallory Cresswell, Taylor Donaldson, Sara Suek, Ryan Hamilton, Jennifer Gorder and Casey Peterson. Erika Johnson is the lone sophomore, while freshman Amy McLain rounds out the team.
With the only actual playing time the Ponies have seen being at the Cut Bank tournament, Havre has not been able to hold challenges for varsity spots. As a result, Dierman said, his teams right now are mostly based on who has attended the most practices.
"They will be the ones less likely to get hurt," Dierman said. "I'm just experimenting right now. Our general conditioning is good, but our actual swinging still needs some work."
The tough competition for Havre, Dierman said, will come from Cut Bank's boys' team and from Conrad's girls' team.
Lewistown has "some decent athletes," he added, but "they have been hurt by (lack of) court time more than us."
In addition, some teams may be short a few athletes due to music festivals.
"Again for the second week in a row, I'm taking this as a practice," Dierman said, noting with the lack of practice time, results are not very important. "It's too early right now to base anything on results."
Despite the inability to practice outside every day, Dierman is pleased with his teams.
"(Wednesday) I was really happy with how we practiced, I just hope they continue," he said. "I'm really happy with them. I haven't had a group work as hard as they do for a while. They're working hard and really getting after it."
Still, the Havre team hopes to be in better shape for the Ponies' home invitational next weekend.
"There isn't an outdoor practice routine set yet which once they do, they will be incredible," Dierman said.