Lady Pirates tennis roll over Bulldogs

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POLSON HIGH School tennis player Qia Harlan slapes a forehand shot to her opponent in earlier-season match. Harlan is part of a group of Lady Pirates that will challenge for another Divisional crown May 17-18 at Libby High School. (photo courtesy of Bob Gunderson)

The Polson High School girls tennis team has made up for the lost practice time and now, according to Lady Pirates, Pirates’ head coach Bob Hislop, they are now caught up.

“I think we are fine now as far as matches in compared to matches we’ve lost,” Hislop said. “We’ve amped up the conditioning and with the extra conditioning, won a lot more in the standings. We get to evaluate situations and get a lot more practices and matches.”

The Lady Pirates got a critical victory against one of the tougher teams in their conference when they handled the Whitefish Lady Bulldogs with a critical 5-1 victory over the Lady Bulldogs Tuesday afternoon at Polson High School.

“They aren’t quite as good as they’ve been in years past but they still have strong No. 1 and No. 2 (players),” Hislop said. “Whitefish still has some pretty solid girls and the team is coming together very nicely. We will play them again on Thursday and we hope to have a repeat performance.”

Hislop said he felt his Lady Pirates team is continuing to improve, especially the play of their doubles player Josie Peterson.

“Josie has just been playing fantastic and she just keeps getting better and better,” Hislop said. “She is really hitting the ball well and is putting a lot of time into it. It’ll be pretty cool to see what she can do (headed into Divisionals and State).”

At this point of the season, Hislop is focusing on getting his girls ready to play in the elements during the Divisional and State atmosphere, when the temperatures increase to 70-plus degrees outside.

“There are always lots of drills to work on and work on the repetition when it gets hot outside especially,” Hislop said. “When it becomes 70-degrees on the court, we want our players out there for a long time at Divisionals or State so that when it gets warmer, they don’t’ think it’s that hot outside.”

Hislop said he felt his team is continuing to improve.

“We are definitely improving every time but our team has good days and bad,” Hislop said. “That is to be expected and our girls are working really, really hard when they go out and practice. I’ve had teams that just go through the motions (in the past) but this team understands what it is to go out and work. They really get into the process of improving.”

Senior leadership helps guide Pirates

Pirates boy’s coach Bob Hislop is aware when his talented team begins to gel and understand the nuances of the complex sport of tennis, he will have a group of state contenders.

The Polson boy’s tennis team is still a work in progress to get there, but it is the potential that has Hislop excited about his team’s future prospects.

Fortunately Hislop has two senior leaders in Johnny Moore and Carson McDaniel that have helped guide some of the young uncultivated talent that exists.

Moore had that type of match against Whitefish’s No. 1 player Eric Holdhusen when he defeated him 6-2, 7-6 and 8-6.

“I think that helped a ton that Johnny had a winning singles match and it was probably the first ‘step up and do something out of the ordinary type of match our team has had this season,” Hislop said.

Hislop said he felt Sam Schutz and Kaiden Forman Webster also exhibited a great doubles team.

“They both had a fantastic doubles matches in Stevi,” Hislop said. “We just had to figure out the right combination.”

After the loss to Whitefish, Hislop acknowledged realistically, it will be difficult for his team to capture a Divisional title. However, he also realizes his team is closer to Whitefish than the 6-1 loss indicates.

“It’ll be tough to win the Divisional against Whitefish,” Hislop admitted.

However, with the leadership and work ethic Moore and McDaniel have displayed together, it gives the Pirates a chance.

“Johnny has a leadership quality about him and the kids will listen to him,” Hislop said. “He and Carson both want to be leaders. Sometimes, when kids want to become leaders, it doesn’t always work out for them, but in this case you can really tell by how well the kids listen. They love it when Johnny says something. He isn’t the type of player that is interested in doing it all by his lonesome and I think he has arrived as a leader.”

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