The Havre High boys and girls tennis teams haven’t had a lot of time on the Bill Vaughey Memorial Tennis Courts so far this spring. But all the same, the Blue Ponies are set to start the regular season.
HHS begins its new season Saturday at the Cut Bank Invitational, a tournament which will feature players from Lewistown, Conrad and the host Wolves. The meet marks the first of three straight weeks in which the Ponies will do battle with the Eagles, Cowboys and Wolves. Havre will also attend the Conrad Duals next Saturday before hosting the Havre Invite April 12.
And while the Ponies haven’t gotten the practice time they would have if the weather had cooperated, HHS head coach George Ferguson said Saturday’s meet will be a great starting point.
“Hopefully, the weather will let us get Saturday in,” Ferguson said. “Normally, we would have 10 or 11 practices outside by now, and we have had only five, and it’s been about the same for everyone we’ll see on Saturday. So we’re behind for sure. But Saturday will be a great day for our kids because it gives them a chance to get back into a competitive situation. It gives them a chance to get themselves back into a match situation and that’s always a good thing. So we’re excited to get to Cut Bank and start playing for real.”
Havre’s lineups will be mixed as many Pony players don’t have the required amount of practices in to participate in competition yet. But again, Ferguson noted that that’s just fine with him because it will give many of his younger players great experience.
The HHS boys lineup for Cut Bank will have Jeff Miller, Zach Hellegaard, Noah Landgraf and Jamie Lieberg playing singles, while Brian Smith and Ned Malone, Jake Sedahl and Nate Korb, and Isaac Warp and Dustin Haas will all team up in doubles.
“We have four freshmen boys who have never played a competitive tennis match before,” Ferguson said. “So this is going to be a great experience for them. We’re throwing them right into the fire so to speak, but it will be a really good way for them to start their tennis careers. I’m really excited to watch those four play for the first time.”
Havre’s girls lineup is missing even more varsity players. Junior Tatiana Ralph will lead the way in singles for the Ponies, while sophomores Alara Vogel and Kaylee Nash will also play singles. Ellery Bresler and Haley Graham, Madison Huebsch and Rainey Stoner, and Ashley Hoffland and Megan Smith will team up in doubles.
“We’re also taking quite a few girls who have little or no varsity experience,” Ferguson said. “But that’s OK. That’s great. This will give those girls the opportunity to learn in a competitive environment. It will be a lot of fun for them.”
And learning, improving and just playing matches is the objective for all of the Blue Ponies who are making the trip to Cut Bank.
“Our veteran kids will be rusty, our younger players are inexperienced and the conditions will be tough,” Ferguson said. “But that’s what these first few weeks are about, gaining experience, gaining confidence and learning to play tennis in a competitive environment. The results are not nearly as important as how we play, what we learn and if we can improve the following week. Those are the goals for every player on our team right now.
“So I’m really excited,” Ferguson continued. “The weather has been horrible; it’s been tough to start and then stop like we have. So to have the opportunity to play for real on Saturday, we’re really looking forward to that. The kids have worked hard and have been patient through all of this bad weather. So they deserve the chance to get out there and play for real on Saturday.”