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Pony tennis teams find Central A success


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It must have been a strange feeling for the Havre High boys and girls tennis teams to come home from the 2009 Central A Divisional tennis tournament without any hardware.

This weekend in Livingston and Bozeman, however, the Blue Ponies corrected that situation.

The Pony boys and girls battled weather and three full days of tennis, and they found plenty of individual and team success along the way. The Havre boys captured their 14th divisional title in the last 15 years, scoring 47 points to easily outdistance second-place Livingston.

The HHS girls finished second to the host Rangers. Livingston scored 46 points to Havre's 34.

Individually, the Ponies' big guns made plenty of noise too as Havre captured titles in three of the four brackets.

Senior Kyle Miller cruised to the boys singles title, while the young duo of Danny Roe and Brayden Grimson captured the boys doubles crown, and seniors Courtney Kinholt and Hayley Donovan repeated as girls doubles champions.

"As far as tennis goes, it went really well," Havre High head coach George Ferguson said. "We won three of the four championships and we got 11 total kids through to state. So we had plenty of success. But what I'm most proud of his how our entire team, all 20 kids we took to divisionals, played against tough circumstances. We had rain delays, cold, wind, and we had to move the tournament indoors with matches in progress, yet all 20 of our kids hung in there, did their very best and we were determined and focused from start to finish. As a coach, that means a lot and I'm proud of every player on our divisional roster." While HHS's top players did what was expected of them, the Ponies' also showed some tremendous depth this weekend, especially on the final day, when after starting out in the morning in Livingston, the tournament was postponed for six hours then moved to the indoor facility at Montana State in Bozeman.

On the boys side, sophomore Justin Jensen gave the Ponies a big boost by finishing third in singles. On Saturday alone, Jensen won two three-setters, including the consolation final in order to not only reach the state tournament but help Havre race past the Rangers. Juniors Keenan Dolezal and Zach Cichosz finished fourth in doubles, including winning a thrilling consolation semifinal match on Saturday night against Livingston. Sophomores Blaine Grisak and Simon McCann also scored three big points for the Ponies.

Meanwhile, Miller was almost perfect, dropping just one game in four matches. He dismantled Livingston's Travis Pattengale in the singles final.

The win gives Miller three Central A titles for his career, two in doubles and one in singles. Roe and Grimson also came up big for the Ponies, winning two three-setters on their way to Havre's 13th straight Central A title in boys doubles.

"Our boys team was on a mission and they didn't have any letdowns," Ferguson said. "I couldn't be more proud and happy for kids like Justin, Keenan, Zach, Danny and Brayden.

That's a pretty inexperienced bunch and they showed up and played great tennis for three days. Those guys were just tremendous and with Kyle playing at such a high level, being so dominant right now, we have a really solid team heading to state. I'm just really happy and proud of our entire boys team. They got the job done." On the girls side, Havre also got the job done, despite falling short to an experienced and deep Livingston squad.

Kinholt and Donovan, the defending Class A doubles champions, battled through a tough draw and a dramatic championship match to earn their second straight Central A crown. The pair shook off dropped sets to two different Livingston teams on their way to the championship. For the second straight year, the Ponies also got a third-place finish from Morgan McCann and Jolee Landgraf. McCann missed most of this season with a broken wrist, but the duo played well, with the only blemish on the weekend, a heartbreaking loss to Livingston in the semifinals.

"Those two girls doubles teams were great," Ferguson said. "After going 1-2 at state a year ago, they've had big targets on their backs all season long. And with Morgan being out for a lot of the year, it was tough on all of them. But when it was time to go this weekend, they were both on, and they stood up to every challenge.

"And they were challenged too," he added. "Nothing was a given for either team. It was impressive to watch them battle this weekend, and I'm really happy and proud of both teams, for not only accomplishing what they set out to do this weekend, but for how mentally tough they were and how hard they played. They really are two great teams, and we are lucky those four kids are Blue Ponies." HHS also got a big boost from a pair of its singles players, including junior Christina Mack who finished fourth overall. Mack reached the semifinals before losing, but rebounded to reach the consolation final. Senior Christina Plum was also amazing for HHS. After dropping a first-round match on Thursday in frigid conditions, she fought back, winning three straight times before losing in the consolation semifinals.

"That's a really bitter-sweet situation," Ferguson said. "I am so happy for (Christina) Mack. She's worked hard for three years to get to this point and she's so deserving of this. She is a good tennis player who is in a tough spot as our No. 1 singles player. But she played great tennis, showed a lot of courage and determination, and now she's on her way to state.

"On the other hand, it's heartbreaking as a coach to watch someone like Christina Plum go through what she went through," he added. "She showed so much heart after losing in the first round, and she scored some big points for our team. She came up just a little short on Saturday morning, and to watch a senior go through that, it just hurts.

Actually, all of the kids who didn't get through to state, it makes you feel bad, because you want the most success for all your kids. But that's tennis. Still, I'm so proud of Plum and all of our kids for the way they played this weekend and the dedication they've shown this whole season." Now, the six HHS boys and five Pony girls who placed this weekend will have a short turnaround before heading to the Class A state tournament, which runs Thursday and Friday in Billings.

"It was a great divisional tournament, especially those last few rounds," Ferguson said. "Our kids were just so tough and so focused, and they played great tennis. I'm proud of my team and we're excited about the things we have a chance to accomplish at state."


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