Havre Daily News Sports Editor
Saturday is special for the Havre High tennis team. With basically only one home date on its home schedule, the Ponies want to make the most of Saturday's Havre Invitational Tennis Tournament.
Family, friends and fans will get a chance to see the powerhouse Ponies compete against local tennis teams at the Havre High tennis courts. If early results have any bearing, it should be an exciting day. The Ponies are heavily favored in both the boys and girls divisions.
Second-year head coach George Ferguson hopes the familiar confines, the lack of an early bus trip and plenty of support will be more than enough motivation for his teams.
"This should be an exciting weekend for them because it is our only chance to play at home," Ferguson said. "Plus we get a chance to have all of our JV kids play."
Ferguson is also equally enthused about the invitational tournament format, which will be the first for most of the teams competing.
"It's big because we are playing in more of a tournament setting," Ferguson said. "I get a chance to see our kids compete in that format and they can get a lot of matches if they keep winning."
The tournament will be broken up in different divisions as team's No. 1 and 2 singles players and doubles teams will compete in respective divisions, while the No. 3 and No. 4's will be in a separate division.
"It sets up for some very competitive matches," Ferguson said.
However, the Ponies should be a little more than competitive on both sides.
After missing some key players at last weekends tourney in Conrad, the Pony boys will have a full roster of players ready for Saturday.
In the singles, No. 1 player Kyle Baltrusch will look to build off a solid weekend and barring a major upset should be playing in the finals. With his smooth all-around game, Baltrusch was barely touched last weekend.
Baltrusch could very well be meeting a familiar face in the finals. Havre's No.2 player, Chase Castloo, is more than capable of reaching the finals with his booming serve and solid forehand.
The Ponies' remaining singles players of Scott Miller and Ryan Kinholt have played well of late and should be a factor in their division.
The Ponies biggest push should come from Cut Bank and Lewistown.
"Our boys singles is pretty strong with the likes of Kyle, Chase, Scott and Ryan," Ferguson said. "But Brian McDivitt of Cut Bank is a steady player and Michael Richter of Lewistown is also solid. It should be a good bracket."
In the doubles, Havre's No. 1 team of Gary Wagner and Marc Mariani are the undisputed favorite, having rolled through just about every team they have faced in the past two years.
"Obviously, Gary and Marc are the favorite," Ferguson said. "They have never lost to any team that will be in attendance this weekend. They are playing pretty well for how early it is in the season."
Havre's No. 2 team of Coda Tchida and Billy Wagner are also playing well and should win some matches.
"Cut Bank has a very good team in Kyle Lewis and Jeff Larson, while Lewistown's team of Stephen and Matt Greuner are also strong," Ferguson said. "The double should still be competitive even though Marc and Gary are the favorite."
The HHS girls had a full squad for the first time last weekend and it showed, as they crushed opponents in Conrad.
Havre will once again be at full strength for this weekend and should have several players vying for titles.
Senior Amy McLain is back to defend her singles title as Havre's No. 1 player. McLain has been very consistent as of late. She could get pushed by teammate Megan Rice, Havre's No. 2 player. Rice has been playing good tennis as of late, which has Ferguson pleased.
"Amy is the heavy favorite, but I really believe that Megan has a chance to do really well this weekend," Ferguson said. "Conrad has a good player in Kristi Reis and Chester also has some talented players. Monica Thackeray of Chinook is a player that should be in the mix as well.
In the lower bracket, Havre has three players that should have success. Karissa Olson, Katie Mariani and Christen Kittelson are more than capable of putting together enough good matches to grab a title.
The doubles portion should be tough, but it could have been tougher. Unfortunately, Lewistown's top team of Devin Nelson and Alira Carpenter won't be playing this weekend, which removes a potential title winner from the bracket.
"It's tough," Ferguson said. "We really wanted to a chance to play against Nelson and Carpenter early on, but it still should be plenty competitive."
With Nelson and Carpenter gone, Havre's No. 1 team of Steph Flatau and Keelie Solomon should be the prohibitive favorite. The No. 2 team of Kari Gorder and Kristi Hollingshead played extremely well last weekend and should push to playing late in the tournament.
Their major competition should come from Cut Bank's Melanie Rice and Jessica Jacobsen, and Chester's Mary DeVries and Amanda Violett.
"The tournament is deep with plenty of talented players," Ferguson said. "It should be a fun day of tennis."
The Havre Invitational will get under way at 8 p.m. The No. 1 and No. 2 divisions will be played at the HHS tennis courts, while the lower division will be played at the upper tennis courts at MSU-Northern.