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Blue Ponies will hit their home courts

Like always, weather is playing tricks on the Havre High tennis teams.

All week long, the Blue

Havre High's Justin Jensen swipes a forehand during a 2011 Class A state tennis tournament match last spring. The Ponies will be at home Monday for the Havre Invitational.

Ponies have practiced in warm, sunny conditions, but that's about to change, and so too has the date of the upcoming Havre Invitational. With another winter storm bearing down on the Hi-Line, the 2012 Havre Invitational has been moved from Saturday to Monday. The tournament will get underway at 8 a.m. at the Bill Vaughey Memorial Tennis Courts in Havre.

"Fortunately, we had a day to play with," Havre High head coach George Ferguson said. "With school out for spring break, all of the teams were able to arrange to come on Monday. So as long as we can get the courts dry by Sunday night, we will have the day of tennis we've been looking forward to.

"The Havre Invite is a special event for us," he continued. "And it would be a shame if we couldn't play because it's the only time our team is home the entire season. It's the only time we get to play in front of our fans and friends and the Havre community, and our kids like playing in that environment. So hopefully, once this storm goes through we can get the courts ready and the weather cooperates on Monday."

The Havre Invite is the third event on the Blue Ponies' schedule, but HHS already missed the Cut Bank Invitational two weeks ago, and with a wet April in the forecast, last weekend's Conrad Invite and this week's Havre Invite become very important tournaments in Ferguson's mind.

"We need the matches," Ferguson said. "This is the time of year when just getting out and getting that real match experience is so crucial. Our schedule gets much more difficult after the Havre tournament so getting this experience is huge for our kids."

The Ponies will host Lewistown, Cut Bank and Conrad on Monday in a tournament format. There will be brackets for boys and girls No. 1-2 singles, No. 3 singles and doubles.

"This is the first tournament format we play so it's exciting," Ferguson said. "In duals, kids are generally matched by skill level, but in a tournament, you really can't predict who you'll play next, so it helps the kids get ready for what they'll see in May."

The Havre boys varsity lineup this week will feature Justin Jensen at No. 1 singles. Jensen is one of several Pony seniors playing for the final time in Havre. Seniors Brayden Grimson and Blaine Grisak will team up to play doubles, while senior Bill Wagner will play singles. Havre will also go with Ned Malone in singles, while Nick Rhines will team with Zach Hellegaard in doubles, as will J.J. Hovet and Brian Smith, as well as Jacob Holden, who round out the HHS varsity lineup. Other Pony boys participating this week will be Noah Landgraf, John Gardipee, Josh Emge and Jamie Lieberg.

On the girls side, the varsity lineup will see Brandy Lambourne at No. 1 singles, while Shannon Herring, Tatianna Ralph and Rylee Valdez will also play singles. At doubles, the Pony lineup is set with Jade McCormick and Jennifer Cichosz at No. 1, Breck Don and Ellery Bresler at No. 2 and Haley Graham and Morgan Jappe at No. 3. Other Pony girls in the field include, Megan Passon, Dani Jeffery and Julie Kadrmas.

As for the competition, Ferguson expects a very good day of tennis. And he expects his players to play at a high level.

"This is always a big event for us," Ferguson said. "All of our kids, varsity and JV get a chance to play in this tournament, so again, it's about the experience. At the same time, we expect our kids to play well. We've been going strong for five weeks now, so we definitely will be looking for improvements this week. We want to see our kids taking the next step. As long as they all go out and put forth the effort, as long as we see them making progress, that's the most important thing about this tournament. We just want to see their games advancing right now.

"It's a long day of tennis," he added. "Our tournament is very grueling, because you play a lot of you keep winning, and with the limited amount of court space, we need about 12 hours to complete the tournament. But that's what tennis is all about. Getting out and competing, playing hard and making the most of every minute you're on the court. So we're very excited to hopefully get this tournament in on Monday."

The 2012 Havre Invitational will get underway at 8 a.m. Monday at the Bill Vaughey Memorial Tennis Courts in Havre. Weather permitting, the Ponies will have a short turnaround, heading to Cut Bank for the two-day Class A Duals next Friday.


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