Polson tennis ready to showcase talents at MHSA Class A state

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POLSON HIGH School girls’ tennis hopes to repeat as the MHSA Class A state champions in the MHSA Class A state tournament May 23-24 at Flathead CC. (Jason Blasco/Lake County Leader)

Before the start of the season, coach Bob Hislop had a conversation with the defending Class A singles champion and Polson’s No. 1 rated singles player Shea McGuinness.

McGuinness, who admitted to Hislop she was feeling the pressure of trying to repeat her success, made sure she didn’t fall victim to it.

Hislop and company continued to provide the necessary support to make sure it didn’t happen, and the coach provided from his 28 years of experience in coaching tennis when he had a discussion with McGuinness at the start of the season.

McGuinness, whose sole loss in the Divisionals came at the hands of Whitefish’s No. 1 player Gracie Smyley, who is one of the favorites to win the MHSA Class A singles championship after transferring from Florida, dominated her Divisional matches.

“McGuinness had a great weekend, and she worked on getting herself right at the right time,” Hislop said. “She and I talked at the beginning of the season that she only had to worry about excelling one weekend in May.”

Hislop also worked with McGuinness on modifying her game before the start of the postseason.

“We made some little changes, cleaned up some things, and she responded very well,” Hislop said. “I am pretty happy with where she is at (at this time of the year).”

McGuinness, who is the Lady Pirates only senior member on the team, will be joined by her Polson teammates that have Hislop optimistic about the future of Polson tennis.

The Lady Pirates have four sophomores who qualified for MHSA state.

Ara Mercer and Megan Rost finished third in doubles.

“There were three or four teams that were pretty close ability wise, and they played two other teams that were close (to their abilities) in Libby’s No. 1 doubles team, and Whitefish’s No. 2 doubles, and they took care of business,” Hislop said. “They had a nice weekend, and if they limit their mistakes, could score a bunch points this weekend.”

Throughout the off season, doubles tandem Berkley Ellis and, Qia Harlan have continued to cultivate their chemistry.

The results of the tandem’s hard work paid dividends as they captured an MHSA Western Class A Divisional title.

“They play all year long, and Qia plays 12 months out of the year,Hislop said. “It’s pretty cool to coach someone with that much love for the game.”

Hislop, with four sophomores and a senior defending Class A state singles champion, is optimistic about his team’s chances to repeat as MHSA Class A state champs, both as a team and McGuinness as his No. 1 singles champion.

“I think it’s good for the program, and the girls to have a chance to win a trophy,” Hislop said. “On the wrong weekend, our team could score ten points, and not place at state. On the right weekend, our kids are prepared to win it.”

The amount of experience for his young girls team could be beneficial for building his team’s continued success.

The Lady Pirates have been there before.

“I think the kids are prepared, they are very confident headed into the state and should be just fine,” Hislop said. “It is a great way for our younger players to gain experience at state. If they don’t do well this year, they can go back with a little bit of experience, and plan to do well next year.”

Pirates ready for state

The Polson High School boys tennis team’s name may change, but the results stay stagnant.

This season, Pirates’ coach Bob Hislop and his assistant coaches added several new members to his young boys tennis team, and it didn’t matter.

The Pirates still qualified several players to the Montana High School Association Class A state tennis tournament May 23-24 at Flathead Valley Community College.

The Pirates qualified several players including their No. 1 singles player Joe McDonald. They also qualified doubles tandems. Anton Lefthand and Trevor Schultz placed fourth in doubles, and Bridger Wenzel and Kendal Forman-Webster, who placed third as a doubles team in Divisonals.

Hislop credited his assistant coaches with helping cultivate, and build the tennis playersand the dedication his players devoted to the sport.

“That is one of the proudest things (over the last 28 years of coaching) is the time the kids put into the summer programs,” Hislop said. “They get something out of it. They like playing (the sport), they like doing it and they learn a ton about tennis. They’ve been very dedicated to becoming better tennis players.”

Hislop and his cabinet of assistant coaches lost several MHSA competitors who had received all-state accolades over the last two seasons, and still, the boys continue to carry on the strong tradition of Polson tennis.

“The other key to success is word of mouth,” Hislop said. “We’ve been so blessed with the kind of kids we get, and the quality of people our team gets throughout the years helps so much.”

Hislop not only credited his assistant coaches for allowing the continued success Polson has had now approaching three decades, but also the senior leadership on both the boys and girls teams that has demonstrated this season.

“They understand the dedication, and they are excellent models,” Hislop said. “It’s a just a system we pride ourselves in. Everyone gets coached and when you do what our program has done, you always have kids to feed into the program. That is pretty neat, and that is what it is all about.”

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