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Blue Ponies anxious to hit Conrad's courts

The Havre High tennis teams are feeling a bit anxious. That's because the Blue Ponies are already one meet behind in their 2012 season.

Last weekend's season-opening Cut Bank Invitational was cancelled due to weather, so the Ponies will try again this weekend, heading west to the Conrad Invitational. The forecast is again gloomy, but head coach George Ferguson is hoping his teams get some much-

Havre High junior Nick Rhines swipes a backhand during the 2011 Havre Invitational tennis tournament. Rhines and the Blue Pony boys and girls are hoping to jump-start their season Saturday at the Conrad Invitational.

needed court time.

"It's never a good thing to have meets cancelled," Ferguson said. "Especially early in the year. You lose valuable experience for all of your players when that happens, so we're keeping our fingers crossed for dry weather. The forecast doesn't look great, but we're hopeful. We really need these matches."

If Havre makes the trip to Conrad, the Ponies are scheduled for three duals. HHS will play Cut Bank first, followed by duals against Central A rival Lewistown, then Conrad.

As for Havre's lineup, last weekend's missed tournament in Cut Bank gave the Ponies a chance to play challenge matches at home on Saturday, which set the varsity lineup for this weekend's meet.

On the boys side, seniors Justin Jensen and Brayden Grimson will play No. 1 and No. 2 singles, respectively. Fellow seniors Simon McCann and Blaine Grisak will team up to play No. 1 doubles. Sophomore Ned Malone mans the No. 3 singles spot, with senior Bill Wagner at No. 4. Junior Nick Rhines will join sophomore Zach Hellegaard at No. 2 doubles, with junior J.J. Hovet and sophomore Brian Smith making up the No. 3 doubles spot. Ferguson said under normal circumstances, he would take even more kids to a dual meet, but that both Conrad and Lewistown are expected to be short-handed this weekend, so there wouldn't be enough matches to go around.

"We had some very competitive challenges matches this past weekend," Ferguson said. "And it shows that we have a lot of depth on our boys team. You can only take 10 players on a varsity trip and we have at least 14 who are playing well enough to make that trip. So our depth is really solid and our boys are ready to go."

The HHS girls lineup will see junior Lainey Chagnon at No. 1 singles, followed by sophomore Brandy Lambourne, sophomore Shannon Herring and freshman Tatianna Ralph. Juniors Jennifer Cichosz and Jade McCormick lead the way at No. 1 doubles, while sophomores Ellery Bresler and Breck Don are No. 2 and sophomores Morgan Jappe and Haley Graham are No. 3.

"Our girls team really needs to get out and play," Ferguson said. "We are much more inexperienced on that side and so these matches this weekend are critical. They really need that match experience because our schedule only gets more difficult from here on out."

As for the matches this weekend, opponents, wins and losses are not Ferguson's concern. He is much more interested in how his teams play for the first time. He's much more concerned with making sure they all get their feet wet and improve from last week to this week.

"We just want to compete," Ferguson said. "We'll be looking at how the kids apply what we've been working on in practice to real matches. We want to see them carry that stuff over. That's what matters right not. No one is going to qualify for the state tournament this weekend or next, so right now it's all about getting better. Our kids will go out there and do their best and we just want to see improvement in their games. That's the most important thing right now."

The Ponies will start their day in Conrad at 9:15 a.m. against the Cut Bank Wolves. The Havre girls will also be in action next Tuesday against Chinook, while the Havre Invitational is set for Saturday, April 7.


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