A Family (and Freshman) Affair for Glacier Tennis

By Beacon Staff

Glacier High School’s tennis teams are again laden with talent, but whether they find more success at the state level this year could ultimately boil down to two factors: freshmen and family.

After placing third at last year’s state tournament, the Lady Wolfpack are a frontrunner to win the Class AA state championship this year. They will be led by Liana Bates, the state runner-up for the past two years. Bates, a junior, is looking to finally break through and claim the individual title, though she’ll have to once again get past defending champion Ellie Crum, a senior from Great Falls High.

Liana Bates, right, watcher her brother, Kellen Bates, return the ball while running a drill during a Glacier High School tennis practice.

The Lady Wolfpack are deeper than last season’s third-place team, and much of the depth comes from a strong freshman class. In tennis, where kids compete year-round in United States Tennis Association events, incoming freshmen often arrive to high school with years of high-level competitive experience under their belts. This year’s Wolfpack class is a case in point.

Behind Bates, junior Cami Mathison will anchor the No. 2 singles position. Mathison has made it to the state tournament two years in a row. Then come the freshmen. Head coach Josh Munro expects freshmen Hailey Blalack and Veronica Walton to round out the singles team and compete for state positions.

Blalack, through USTA events, has already competed against defending champion Crum and her younger sister, freshman Molly Crum, who is expected to be a state frontrunner as well. Blalack said she has battled the elder Crum well in her two losses. She split her two matches against the younger Crum.

Blalack is looking forward to the camaraderie of high school team competition after years of individual competition outside of the school environment.

“I’m really excited to be on a team,” Blalack said.

Munro said Walton will also be a tough freshman to beat. Walton is the older sister of Brittain Walton, one of the top junior players in the Northwest United States. The younger Walton, a sixth-grader, was practicing with the team last week, and performing well against the older athletes.

Glacier High School tennis head coach Josh Munro, center, leads his team in a practice at the Flathead Valley Community College tennis courts.

Mathison and Walton will be the Wolfack’s top girls doubles team, followed by Amy Snipstead and Katlyn Hacke, giving what Munro feels is enough firepower in both doubles and singles to compete for the state title. Perennial powers Bozeman and Great Falls, who have won the past two state titles, will again be strong.

“We’re hoping and expecting to be a top-three team,” Munro said. “It’s going to be a battle, but we think we have a shot at winning it all.”

For the boys, family ties could be the difference maker. The top doubles team is brothers Patrick Phattharaampornchai and Phillip Phattharaampornchai. They both have state tournament experience and Munro expects them to be better this season.

Freshman Kellen Bates will lead the singles squad. Bates is the younger brother of Liana Bates. Like his sister, who made it to the state final as a freshman and sophomore, Bates has the talent to make a run at the state title, Munro said.

At 6 feet and still growing, the 14-year-old Bates has a powerful serve and forehand. A southpaw, he’s quick on his feet and has a nice touch from both the baseline and at the net. Through USTA play, he has already competed against Class AA’s elite, including Missoula Hellgate’s Eric Braun. Braun is the two-time defending state champion.

Cami Mathison digs low to return a ball during Glacier High School tennis practice.

Bates has lost his matches against Braun, but hasn’t played him for over a year, he said. It would be logical to assume that the freshman version of Bates will be harder to beat than the seventh-grade version. He said he began playing tennis when he was 5 years old after his interest was piqued watching his older sister.

“We’ll see how it plays out,” Bates said, “but I’m pretty comfortable going into the season.”

Glacier’s next meet is in Missoula on April 17. Divisionals are scheduled for May 13-14 and state is on May 21-22.

To keep up with the team throughout the season, check out http://sites.google.com/site/jmunro13. The site is a well-kept source for results, season updates, photos, blogs and links, all pertaining to Glacier High School tennis.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.