Polson High School doubles tandem Berkeley Ellis and Qia Harlan worked all summer to cultivate a synergistic relationship crucial to doubles success.
During the offseason, Ellis and Harlan competed with each other in several AAU-sanctioned events, and the result of their hard work was a second-place finish at the Montana High School Association Class A state tournament.
Lady Pirates coach Bob Hislop and his cabinet of assistant coaches were impressed with the tandem’s progress.
“They had a nice run at the championship,” Hislop said. “They were pretty efficient, served well and returned well. When they got a shot for put-aways, they did a nice job. As sophomores playing at state, they were very confident.”
During the championship match, the two sophomores, who will have two more years to try to capture an MHSA Class A state title together, struggled against the eventual champions.
“(In the finals), they struggled and played a nice first set, but maybe the moment just got a little too big for them,” Hislop said. “Whitefish is a pretty darn good opponent, and they went to three sets with them every time they played. They got outplayed pretty bad in the last two games. The same things that were working (earlier) weren’t working. “
The duo continued to fight to try to win an MHSA Class AA doubles title.
“They didn’t serve very well, they didn’t protect our service very well and Whitefish played very, very well,” Hislop said.
The Lady Pirates’ player Shea McGuinness played against some of the toughest competition Class A had to offer in recent memory.
McGuinness, one of the top players in the state and the defending MHSA Class A state tennis singles champion finished in sixth place at the MHSA state tennis meet.
McGuinness, who played uphill during the entire tournament as Hislop referred to, made the necessary adjustments to remain competitive throughout all of her state matches.
“When you look at the state draw, there are a lot of players during the regular season that could have placed (at state),” Hislop said.
Lady Pirates doubles tandem Ara Mercer and Megan Rost haven’t played tennis long, but they didn’t prevent them from succeeding.
“They are two sophomores that have not played tennis for a long time (in their careers),” Hislop said.
Rost told Hislop they were planning on performing well during the tournament.
The doubles tandem didn’t disappoint.
The girls’ team, who captured a Class A state championship as a team in 2018, looks to forge ahead and do the same heading into the 2020 season.
“The future is bright, but it will be tough to replace Shae,” Hislop said. “Hopefully, we will figure out how to replace (Shae) moving forward, but we don’t have to figure it out this week.”
Inexperienced boys team shines on Montana’s biggest stage
We were headed into the Montana High School Association Class A tournament on May 23-24 at Flathead Community College’s tennis courts.
“All five of the boys tennis players played great,” Hislop said. “We were pretty darn green this year.”
Hislop said he felt the junior players got a lot of experience and will be prepared for next season.
“All juniors got to see it, and played way better the second day,” Hislop said. “At the state doubles and singles, the difference between winning and losing is a fine line.”
Kendal Forman-Webster and Bridger Wenzel were the surprise of the tournament.
Wenzel emerged strongly in what would be his only state appearance.
“They are both pretty darned determined,” Hislop said.
Hislop was impressed with Wenzel, who didn’t start playing until March. Wenzel, a multi-sport athlete as a wrestler and soccer player, showcased his athleticism.
“He and Kendal grew up before our eyes,” Hislop said. “He had a fabulous senior year.”
Team members Anton Lefthand and Trevor Schultz finished strong, according to Hislop.
“With some offseason work with the two of them, it’s going to be pretty amazing (the progress they make),” Hislop said. “We will have to find a way to get Kendal to be pretty darn good.”