Head coach Josh Munro isn’t the only one excited about Glacier High School’s inaugural tennis season. The 55 students who showed up for the first day of practice apparently are ready to go too.
Munro, coach for boys and girls tennis at Glacier, said even though many of his players are freshmen, they aren’t necessarily inexperienced. Some of them, like Liana Bates and Cami Mathison, already are seasoned veterans in the United States Tennis Association (USTA) circuit.
Bates recently defeated one of last year’s top players in Class AA at a USTA event, Munro said.
“This group is going to be pretty good coming out of the gate,” Munro said, “but by the end of the year they’re going to be in contention a lot. The turnout is great.”
Along with experienced players like Bates and Mathison, Glacier has players who have never played tennis. This wide range in experience levels creates unlikely pairings for the doubles teams. For example, John Hammett, who was a top player last year for Flathead High, is paired with Kyle Schmauch, who has never played tennis before. But Schmauch is a state champion racquetball player.
Munro said he expects a handful of his best players to make state for both boys and girls. Bates and Mathison, he said, have the ability to do some damage right from the beginning of the season.
“They both have a chance at reaching state as freshmen,” he said. “In fact it would be a shock if they didn’t in some ways.”
The Whitefish boys tennis team only lost one senior from a squad that finished second at state last year. The three Bulldogs who competed in singles at the state tournament are all returning, including junior Matt Harris, who was the state championship runner-up. The other two top returning singles players are seniors Ryan Rottenbiller and Ian Hosek.
“They’re very motivated and, barring injuries, hopefully we’ll take divisionals and go to state again,” said Kathy Cummings, the head coach for both boys and girls.
On the girls side for Whitefish, Brielle Menegazzi returns for her senior year after a strong showing at last year’s state tournament. Cummings also pointed to juniors Kate Klundt and McCara Cullen as potential state tournament qualifiers.
A strong senior class leads Flathead High School into the 2008 tennis season, with several players already having plenty of divisional and state tournament experience under their belts. Among them on the boys side are Erik Skybak and Wes Mathison, who both played at state last year.
Shannon Ballard and Jordan Gentry head up a talented girls group, which also includes Maxine Sugarman, Melanie Nelson and Maggie Sherrill.
One reflection of the team’s experience, head coach Buck Measures said, is that many players entered the season ready to go even before the first day of practice began. They worked hard in the off-season, Measures said.
“They’re aware of the kind of commitment it takes in the off-season to be successful,” Measures said.
In Columbia Falls, the doubles team of Grant Getts and Cody Maynard looks to make it back to the state tournament. Getts and Maynard were the only Wildcats in last year’s state tourney. On the girls side, Columbia Falls’ lone representative at last year’s state tourney, Sarah Marcille, returns to lead the lady Wildkats.
Bigfork hopes to build on its storied tennis history. The Bigfork girls won 11 state championships in 12 years when the school was Class B. The boys won six during that period. But since Bigfork joined Class A a decade ago, neither boys nor girls have won another state title. Last year the Vikings sent two to the state tourney and the Valkyries sent three.
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