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Pony netters thrive in Helena

Ask and you shall receive. The Havre High boys and girls tennis teams were hoping to get a lot of court time and strong competition at this weekend's Helena Invitational, and that's exactly what the Blue Ponies got.

Threatening skies held off for two days of what Blue Pony head coach George Ferguson said is the best high school tennis tournament in Montana, and his teams did quite well.

Though team scores are not kept at the Helena Invite, the Ponies played well and sent several players and doubles teams deep into the second day of the tournament which features brackets for No. 1-No. 3 singles, and the same for doubles. The tournament was made up of all of Class AA, as well as Class A Havre and Livingston.

"I couldn't be happier with how things went in Helena," Ferguson said. "Just really proud of our kids. They went down there and played really well against the toughest competition they will see this season, and for some of them, the toughest they've ever seen.

"Obviously, the best part is, we got to play and we played a lot," he added. "Friday turned out to be a pretty nice day. Saturday, the wind picked up and it was cold, but our kids are pretty used to that and they did a great job of fighting through it. But the biggest thing is, we played, we were on the court a ton, and we played well. I feel like we definitely got better this weekend and that's exactly what needed to happen."

Havre's depth is what impressed Ferguson the most. Going into Helena, things will always be tough on the No. 1's on both the boys and girls side because of the fierce AA players. But Havre's No. 2's and No. 3's did particularly well.

The No. 2 girls doubles team of Breck Don and Ellery Bresler battled all the way to the consolation semifinals of their bracket before losing a three-set match to the No. 2 team from powerful Glacier High. The No. 3 team of Haley Graham and Morgan Jappe also did very well, reaching the quarters of the winner bracket, while sophomore Brandy Lambourne went 2-2 at No. 2 singles, including a sensational win over a star player from Helena Capital.

"Breck and Ellery had the best weekend of their young career," Ferguson said. "They played a bunch of really close matches against really good Class AA teams and they played great from start to finish. It was a lot of fun to watch them rise to a level of play they hadn't been to yet and I'm really excited for them because they know if they can play that well at this tournament, then the future is very bright for them.

"I thought all three of our girls doubles teams did a tremendous job," he added. "Haley and Morgan were really good this weekend, and we put Jennifer (Cichosz) with Lainey Chagnon for the first time this year. And in their first match, they had to play Bozeman's top team who's a state contender. But at the end of the day, they played great together and gained a lot of valuable experience.

"In singles, Brandy was outstanding. She really battled some solid players," he continued. "Singles is tough in this tournament so all three of our girls were in an underdog role. And they did very well. We moved Jade (McCormick) to singles for the first time, so this was a good learning experience for her. But overall, I thought all nine girls we took to Helena did a really good job and they will all realize how much of a difference this tournament makes for them. I'm really proud of them."

On the boys side, Havre High senior Blaine Grisak played singles for the first time this season and went 2-2 in the tough No. 2's bracket. That record included a dominating win over CMR's Ben Gold, who's considered a top singles player in Class AA. For the second straight year, sophomore Ned Malone also had a strong showing in Helena. Malone reached the quarters of the No. 3's bracket and also knocked off GFH's Kylar Clifton in going 2-2.

It was a tough go for Havre's top singles player Justin Jensen in the No. 1's, as he drew Capital's Noah Strizich in the first round.

In doubles, the Ponies got a couple of wins from the No. 3 tandem of J.J. Hovet and Bill Wagner. The No. 1 team of Simon McCann and Brayden Grimson and the No. 2 team of Nick Rhines and Zach Hellegaard both had brutal draws in the tourney, but played well never-the-less.

"I saw a lot of good things from our boys team, and we were experimenting with our lineup this weekend," Ferguson said. "Blaine had a really good two days, especially considering this was his first singles matches of the year, and considering the competition he was up against. Ned has been playing well all season and he just continued to get better this weekend. If not for a tough loss in the second round, he might have won his bracket this weekend. So he did a great job.

"I thought we played well in doubles too," Ferguson added. "We moved the lineup around, so we used this tournament as a learning experience for them. But all our boys did a great job."

And with Helena now in the rearview mirror, the Ponies look forward to gearing up for the postseason, and the Central A Divisional, which is less than two weeks away. And this weekend's Helena Invite was a big part of that gearing up process.

"As a team, I think we turned a corner this weekend," Ferguson said. "At least I hope we have, because all of our kids, at one time or another, played really good tennis against really good tennis players and that is a sign of great progress. So I'm really proud of the 18 kids we took to Helena this weekend, and now we just have to go back to work and make sure that progress keeps going forward. That's the key. But it definitely was a great weekend for us."

Havre will close out the regular season with the all-important Lewistown Invitational this Saturday in Lewistown. The tournament is used as part of the seeding process for the upcoming Central A Divisional, which is May 17-18 in Bozeman.

Helena Invitational

Havre High Results


Justin Jensen (No. 1 Singles)

1st rd – lost to Noah Strizich, CAP, 6-4, 3-6, 3-6; 1st rd consolation – lost to Dallas Lussier, LIV, 6-2, 7-5.

Blaine Grisak (No. 2 Singles)

1st rd – lost to Chris Laporte, MBS, 6-3, 6-3; 1st rd consolation – def. Ben Gold, CMR, 6-2, 6-4; 2nd rd consolation – def. J.T. Millay, BUT, 6-3, 6-2; 3rd rd consolation – lost to Nick Swenson, CAP, 6-2, 7-6 (7-3).

Ned Malone (No. 3 Singles)

1st rd – def. Mike Gunderson, GFH, 6-3, 6-3; Quarterfinals – lost to Dallas Rosslow, MBS, 4-6, 6-4, 10-8; 2nd rd consolation – def. Kylar Clifton, GFH, 7-6, (7-3), 6-4; 3rd rd consolation – lost to Makari Krause, BOZ, 7-5, 6-2.

Brayden Grimson/Simon McCann (No. 1 Doubles)

1st rd – lost to Curey/Powell, HHS, 6-4, 6-4; 1st rd consolation – lost to Harris/Rosenbaum, MBS, 6-3, 6-3.

Nick Rhines/Zach Hellegaard (No. 2 Doubles)

1st rd – lost to Harvala/Peevey, MH, 6-3, 6-3; 1st rd consolation – lost to Richards/Richards, LIV, 6-4, 6-4.

J.J. Hovet/Bill Wagner (No. 3 Doubles)

1st rd – def. Sorlie/Moe, FH, 6-4, 5-7, 10-4; Quarterfinals – lost to ; 2nd rd consolation – def. Niderman/Watson, MBS, 6-4, 6-3; 3rd rd consolation – lost to Sutton/Wartnow, BS, 7-5, 6-2.


Brandy Lambourne (No. 2 Singles)

1st rd – lost to Brianna Speltz, MBS, 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 7-10; 1st rd consolation – def. Jenna Radcliffe, CAP, 6-3, 6-2; 2nd rd consolation – def. Morgan Benge, BSV, 6-2, 6-3; 3rd rd consolation – lost to Sarah Harmsworth, MH, 6-2, 6-3.

Jade McCormick (No. 2 Singles)

1st rd – lost to Lauren Wilgus, BS, 6-4, 6-2; 1st rd consolation – lost to Kelsey Donnelly, MBS, 6-3, 6-4.

Shannon Herring (No. 3 Singles)

1st rd – lost to Hannah Willstein, MH, 6-3, 6-2; 1st rd consolation – lost to Abigail Davidson, GFH, 6-3, 6-2.

Lainey Chagnon/Jennifer Cichosz (No. 1 Doubles)

1st rd – lost to Madi Henning/Christina Oliva, BOZ, 6-2, 6-2; 1st rd consolation – lost to Keiper/Finnegan, MH, 7-5, 6-3.

Breck Don/Ellery Bresler (No. 2 Doubles)

1st rd – def. McPherson/Stewart, CAP, 2-6, 7-5, 10-5; Quarterfinals – lost to Peterson/Caldwell, HHS, 7-5, 6-4; 2nd rd consolation – def. Dean/Vetter, BUT, 4-6, 7-6 (7-3) 10-1; 3rd rd consolation – def. Richards/Hazelip, CMR, 2-6, 6-4, 13-11; consolation semis – lost to Erickson/Wright, GLA, 6-4, 6-7 (7-5), 10-8.

Haley Graham/Morgan Jappe (No. 3 Doubles)

1st rd – def. Hegdus/Terrell, MBS, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4; Quarterfinals - lost to Nettelson/Huffsmith, CAP, 5-7, 7-5, 10-7; 2nd rd consolation – lost to Dobrowski/Forestenzer, LIV, 7-5, 7-6.


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