Havre Daily News
The Havre High boys and girls tennis teams will be in Billings this weekend for five duals against Class A opponents. The Ponies are coming off a very tough two-week stretch in which they faced all Class AA competition.
HHS head coach George Ferguson is hoping that his team will be highly prepared and even more motivated to face the best that the Eastern A has to offer this weekend at the Mayfair Invitational hosted by Billings Central High School.
“We have had a difficult two weeks, that is for sure,” Ferguson said. “I don't think anyone in Class A plays a tougher schedule than we do, and the philosophy behind it is that our schedule should make us more than ready for the postseason.
“And we have to go to Billings and treat this tournament like a postseason event,” he added. “Because we are going to see a lot of the kids that we will potentially match up with when we get to the state tournament.”
The HHS boys and the Blue Pony girls have taken different paths to get to this point in the season. The Havre High girls team is a senior-laden squad, and even the underclassmen have a lot of postseason experience. And thus far, Ferguson said, his girls team is progressing at exactly the pace he was hoping for.
“I really like where our girls are at right now,” Ferguson said. “For one thing, they are playing with a lot of confidence right now. And all of them play better every time they step on the court. That is a sign that these girls are getting ready to make some noise when we get to the divisional tournament.”
Havre has been led recently by its No. 2 and No. 3 doubles teams of Kari Gorder and Kristi Hollingshead and Karissa Olson and Alexa Lipp. The two doubles teams have given the Ponies a huge boost in the depth department. The No. 1 team of Keelie Solomon and Steph Flatau is also starting to gel, according to Ferguson, after having missed a good portion of the early season do to other commitments.
“Kari and Kristi and Alexa and Karissa have just been really steady,” Ferguson said. “And we knew that it would take Steph and Keelie some time to get back into the swing of things, because they just haven't played a lot of matches. Right now I feel really good about our doubles situation.”
In singles, Havre has gotten big contributions from Haley McLain at No. 2 and freshman Hope Hedges at No. 3. This week the Ponies will also get back the services of No. 1 singles player Katie Mariani, who missed last week's Great Falls Invitational. Senior Jocelyn Chagnon rounds out the HHS lineup in Billings.
“This is going to be a good test for our girls team,” Ferguson said. “They played really well in Great Falls, and this weekend they are going to face some more good opponents, because the Eastern A has some quality players in both singles and doubles. I am really excited to see our girls team go down there and continue to play well.”
Meanwhile, the six-time defending Class A state champion Havre High boys team has been going through some serious growing pains lately. The Ponies failed to win a single dual against Class AA competition in Great Falls last weekend. It was the first time in two years that Havre didn't go undefeated in that event.
“I just think we have a hill to get over with our boys team, and it's mostly mental,” Ferguson said. “We are really close to being the team I thought we could be this year, but some of the kids just lack some confidence when they step out on the court.
“I have said all year that this team is very talented,” he added. “But in order to take that next step, these guys have to believe in themselves and their abilities as much as our coaching staff believes in them.”
Like the girls team, the HHS boys team will regain the services of its top singles player this week. Senior Chase Castloo missed last weekend's tournament but returns to give Havre more depth in singles. With Castloo's return, this weekend will mark the first time that the full Havre High varsity team has made a trip in more than a month.
“There is no doubt that in a dual situation we need Chase in our lineup,” Ferguson said. “He is one of our best players and one of our veteran guys. When he is on his game, I honestly believe that there aren't too many people out there that can beat him.”
Senior Scott Miller will man the No. 2 spot for the Ponies this weekend after having stepped up to play the No. 1 spot at each of Havre's last two tournaments. Freshman Shane Kemmer also will play singles this weekend, but after that, Ferguson said, changes to the lineup may be in the works.
“Now that we have a full team again, we may try some different combinations this weekend,” Ferguson said. “Because of how close divisionals is, we really won't have an opportunity to really tinker with things again after this weekend. So we'll take a look at a couple of different things and see what happens.”
Havre's No. 1 doubles team appears to be set with senior John Christian and junior Billy Wagner teaming up last weekend in Great Falls. Also making the trip to Billings will be senior Jordan Croft, junior Ryan Kinholt, sophomores David Zentmire and Todd Roe, and freshman Mason Sheppard.
“This weekend will tell us a lot about our boys team,” Ferguson said. “We are facing teams that we have typically been pretty dominant against in the past, and with our full complement of players back, I fully expect our kids to go down there and play very well in every dual.”
Havre will kick off the Mayfair Invitational tournament in Billings on Friday at 12:30 p.m. when it duals Billings Central at Pioneer Park. Throughout the course of the weekend, Havre will also face Glendive, Miles City, Cody, Wyo., and Hardin.