The Daily Inter Lake
Glacier and Flathead will be well represented at the Class AA state tennis tournament, which begins Thursday in Great Falls and ends Saturday. Play will be held at C.M. Russell, Hurd and Meadowlark Country Club.
Glacier will be sending 13 athletes to the Electric City for the season finale and Flathead’s total is eight.
Glacier will have Rory Smith, Maria Frampton and Maggie Rudbach in singles and five doubles teams — (girls) Hannah Nikunen/Ashlyn Sliter and Regin Koester/Katie Lessmeier; (boys) Ben Desmul/Ethan Purdy; Kyle Buckingham/Akhil Patel; and Drew Engellant/Micah Heil.
Smith/Frampton and Nikunen/Sliter were Northern AA divisional champions last week at Flathead Valley Community College along with Smith and Frampton.
Desmul/Purdy and Koester/Lessmeier were both second, Buckingham/Patel third and Rudbach along with Engellant/Heil were both fourth.
“Getting to state is tough,” Glacier coach Josh Munro said.
“It is very deep right now. We have numbers which is nice, but there are a lot of high quality players out there.”
This is the most state qualifiers for Flathead in at least three seasons. It had one last year — Ethan Hawkins in singles — none the year before.
Flathead did qualify nine in 2014.
Advancing for Flathead are Joston Cripe and Brett Thompson in singles and Nolan White/Ethan Hawkins, Sierra Dilworth/Marcella Mercer and Kendall Pyron/Emma Hawkins in doubles.
At divisionals last week, White/Hawkins were doubles champions, Cripe was a runner-up in singles and Thompson finished fourth.
Dilworth/Mercer and Pyron/Hawkins faced off in the consolation finals.
“Flathead is very excited to have eight state qualifiers this year,” Flathead coach Jimmy Cripe said.
“We have a No. 1 seed in boys doubles with Nolan and Ethan. A No. 2 and No. 4 seed in boys singles with Joston and Brett. In girls doubles we earned No. 3 and No. 4 seeds with Sierra/Marcella and Kendall/Emma. Players are looking forward to a challenging and fun state tournament.”
On the team side for girls, Bozeman, Billings Senior and Missoula Hellgate will battle for top honors.
Bozeman, Helena High, Hellgate and Missoula Sentinel are the top four for boys.
The last time Glacier brought home a state trophy was 2017. The girls finished third.
Northwestern A Divisional
At Flathead Valley Community College
Weather, again, is disrupting court action in Northwest Montana.
The season started with rain outs and now that play is winding down, and after almost two weeks of decent conditions, it appears rain is back on the radar. With a 70 percent chance of rain Thursday and 80 percent on Friday, tournament officials will start play a day earlier — today at 4 p.m. Rain is also in the forecast today — a 60 percent chance this evening.
“We’re hoping to get a head start on the weather, which isn’t looking particularly good for Thursday-Saturday.” Columbia Falls coach Gene Marcille said.
“If we have to do the majority of the tournament inside at the Glacier Tennis Center in The Summit, a Wednesday round of singles matches will help.”
Columbia Falls is hosting this year’s event.
Also competing are Libby, Whitefish, Polson and Ronan.
The Whitefish boys and Polson girls are defending divisional champions.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to next week’s Class A state tournament, also at FVCC.
Back to the divisional, Whitefish and Polson will most likely battlie it out for the team titles in girls plays. Whitefish finished season play 15-3 overall and went 8-0 in Northwestern A action.
“All of the tennis coaches in our conference do a good job, but Whitefish coach Patrick Dryden consistently gets his girls ready to compete at a high level for postseason tournaments,” Marcille said.
“Individually, Whitefish’s Gracie Smyley and Columbia Falls’ Hannah Schweikert, both sophomores, have had stellar seasons. If their strong play continues for the tournament, they should compete for the individual championship. However, don’t count out Polson’s Shea McGuinness. She’s an excellent tennis player with solid command of all the shots needed to win, and she’s a proven winner at the state level.”
McGuinness is the defending state champion and was undefeated a year ago.
On the doubles side of the girls tournament, Aubrey Hanks and Olivia Potthoff (Whitefish) and Berkley Ellis and Qia Harlan (Polson) could square off for the championship. Libby’s Elise Erickson and Ciara Lucas and Polson’s Ara Mercer and Megan Rost will be favored to fill the other two state-qualifying spots.
Hanks and Potthoff were divisional runner-ups last year.
Like the Whitefish girls, the WHS boys have been equally impressive with a 14-4 dual mark, 8-0 in league play.
Brendan Buls, the Bulldogs top singles player, is back to defend his divisional title.
Whitefish’s Mark Anderson, who won a divisional title a year ago with Forrest Kobelt, has a new partner this year in Colter Upton.
John Gilk/Tristan Grein were divisional runners-up last year for Columbia Falls. Gilk has a new doubles partner this spring in Camryn Lingle. They joined forces late in the schedule and bring a 8-0 mark to the divisional.
State B-C Tournament
Bigfork’s boys and girls finished third a year ago at state in Great Falls. The Great Falls Central boys and Choteau girls took the team titles.
Bigfork seniors Clayton and Colten Reichenbach are defending state doubles champions and were fifth the year before that.
Winning divisional titles for Bigfork last Saturday in Troy were the Reichenbachs, Payton Crawford, Trey Christiaens, and Ahna Fox/Meredith Bedford.
Play starts Thursday and runs through Saturday at Bozeman High School and the Montana State University Tennis Center.