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The Missoula Hellgate doubles team of Chauncey Liston, left, and Brady Henthorn made quick work of Great Falls Russell’s Nick Allison and Griff Malloy on Friday morning at Playfair Park. The Knights won the Western AA divisional match in straight sets, 6-2, 6-0.

The do-or-die pressure and intense heat of Western AA divisionals made for the ultimate tennis proving ground for the Missoula Sentinel girls and Hellgate boys.

With oncourt temperatures in the 90s Friday afternoon, the Spartans enjoyed an historic breakthrough, outdistancing the Hellgate girls for top team honors. Sentinel coach Jeanne Veteto walked away with a huge piece of hardware and a sense of pride that came from guiding six girls to next week’s state meet in Great Falls.

“Sentinel has never won this trophy and I’m so excited for this team,” said Veteto, a bundle of energy who wears her tennis passion on her sleeve. “These girls have worked so hard. I can’t be more proud of a group. Nine of the 12 (varsity) girls I think are seniors, so what a wonderful gift to all these seniors.”

For the Hellgate boys, Friday was business as usual. Never in the 43-year history of Montana prep tennis has a team from the west side of the state won four straight Class AA championships.

The Knights have put themselves in position to make a serious bid. Six players secured state berths, including Alex Braun and Dylan Harvala in singles and the doubles teams of Ethan Howard/Stash Wrobel and Reid Birgenheier/Isak Nord.

Hellgate first-year coach James Hackethorn said it may not be a sure slam dunk at state the way it has been in the past, but his group is capable of coming away with the top team prize.

“Yeah of course we lost a few matches we could have maybe pulled off today, but that’s the nature of the game,” noted Braun, the undefeated divisional singles champion who will play for the University of Montana next season.

“We’ll have to do with what we’ve got. It’s an exciting opportunity to set a record.”

Joining Braun on the list of local champions Friday were Missoula Big Sky’s Aaron Koerner and Colin Bahin in doubles and Hellgate freshman Sophia Panarella in girls’ singles. Koerner and Bahin have lost only once this season and swept in divisional finals, 7-6 (4), 6-4, against Hellgate’s Howard and Wrobel.

What makes divisionals unlike any other junior tennis event in Montana is the do-or-die nature. And the most intriguing matches often come in the consolation semifinals, rather than the main draw and consolation finals, because the winner walks away with a state berth and the loser is finished.

Friday was a good example. In boys’ doubles, Big Sky’s Austin Rosenbaum and Jacob Himber punched their ticket to state with a thrilling consolation semifinal win over Hellgate’s Brady Henthorn and Chauncey Liston, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4. In girls’ consolation singles semifinals, unseeded Seeley Small of Sentinel and Mariah Skiftun of Hellgate posted hard-fought wins under taxing conditions.

Small’s determination was perhaps most impressive of all. After winning a three-and-a-half-hour singles match on Thursday afternoon and dropping a tight decision that evening, she came back on Friday and won three matches, including a sizzler against senior teammate Maddie Murdock, 7-6 (4), 6-4, to earn a state berth.

“It changes the game sometimes,” Braun said of the hot conditions this week. “Really the ball bounces different and it can change the way you plan your matches.”

The state meet will be played Thursday and Friday at the Great Falls Russell and Great Falls City Courts.

Western AA divisional

At Playfair Park

Friday

(Notes: Top four singles players and doubles teams advance to state)

GIRLS

Team scores: Missoula Sentinel 41*, Hellgate 36*, Great Falls Russell 22, Missoula Big Sky 12.

* – Scores do not include the consolation singles final, which will be played Saturday. That match will change the point totals but will not change the team order of finish.

Singles

Championship – Sophia Panarella, H, def. Katie Veteto, MS, 6-2, 6-1.

Semifinals – Panarella def. Maddie Murdock, MS, 6-4, 6-2; Veteto def. Kelsey Donnelly, MBS, 6-2, 6-1.

Third-fourth place – Seeley Small, MS, vs. Mariah Skiftun, H, on Saturday.

Doubles

Championship – Maddie Hazelip/Lindsay Martinez, GFR, def. Anna Ballew/Mackenzie Keiper, H, 6-3, 6-3.

Semifinals – Hazelip/Martinez def. Emily Finnegan/Wren Matelich, H, 4-3, ret (inj); Ballew/Keiper def. Jenna Donovan/Morgan Harrington, MS, 3-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4.

Third-fourth place – Donovan/Harrington def. Darby Anderson/Kaylee Bauer, MS, 6-0, 7-6 (4).

BOYS

Team scores: Hellgate 58, Big Sky 28, Sentinel 22, Great Falls Russell 9.

Singles

Championship – Alex Braun, H, def. Lucas Veteto, MS, wd (inj).

Semifinals – Braun def. Dylan Harvala, H, 6-2, ,6-3; Veteto def. Will Runkel, GFR, 6-4, 6-3.

Third-fourth place – Harvala def. Runkel, 6-0, 6-0.

Doubles

Championship – Colin Bahin/Aaron Koerner, MBS, def. Ethan Howard/Stash Wrobel, H, 7-6 (4), 6-4.

Semifinals – Bahin/Koerner def. Reid Birgenheier/Isak Nord, H, 6-1, 6-2; Howard/Wrobel def. Jacob Himber/Austin Rosenbaum, 6-2, 6-1.

Third-fourth place – Birgenheier/Nord def. Himber/Rosenbaum, 6-0, 6-2.

ELSEWHERE

Northern AA divisional

At Kalispell

Friday

(Top four singles players and doubles teams advance to state)

BOYS

Team scores: Kalispell Glacier 57, Great Falls 29, Kalispell Flathead 17.

Singles

Championship – Kellen Bates, Gla, def. Hunter Blalack, Gla, 6-3, 6-3.

Semifinals – Bates def. Glenn Strickler, F, 6-0, 6-0; Blalack def. Matt Widen, F, 7-6 (7), 4-6, 6-3.

Third-fourth place – Widen def. Strickler 6-4, 7-5.

Doubles

Championship – Spencer Johnson/Britt Walton, Gla, def. Izaak Castren/Logan Iverson, Gla, 6-0, 6-1.

Semifinals – Johnson/Walton def. Nate Sheffels/Josh Haagenson, GFH, 7-5, 6-1; Castren/Iverson def. Mitch Byrnes/Brad Jones, Gla, 6-3, 6-4.

Third -fourth place – Scheffels/Haagenson def. Kylar Clifton/Taylor Lunn, GFH, 6-0, 6-4.

GIRLS

Team scores: Kalispell Glacier 60, Great Falls 25, Kalispell Flathead 18.

Singles

Championship – Katya Kulikova, Gla, def. Molly Crum, GFH, 6-2, 6-3.

Semifinals – Kulikova def. Hailey Blalack, Gla, 6-0, 2-6, 6-3; Crum def. Ashli Petek, F, 6-0, 6-0.

Third-fourth place – Blalack def. Abigail Davidson, GFH, 6-0, 6-1.

Doubles

Championship – Kailea Vaudt/Veronica Walton, Gla, def. Kali Mathison/Kirstyn Haugenoe, Gla, 6-2, 6-0.

Semifinals – Vaudt/Walton def. Jackie Santin/Laura Gilligan, GFH, 6-1, 6-2; Mathison/Haugenoe def. Molly Wright/Ingrid Ericksen, Gla, 6-2, 6-1.

Third-fourth place – Sarah Christensen/Barrie Sugarman, F, def. Wright/Ericksen, 6-2, 6-4.

Southwestern B-C girls’ divisional

Day 1 at Darby

(Note: The top six singles finishers and top five doubles teams advance to state next week in Missoula)

Team scores – Superior-Alberton 21, Loyola Sacred Heart 11, Darby 10, Valley Christian 4.

Singles

First round

Emma Wooldridge, SA, def. Reaghan Johnson, DA, 6-0, 6-0; Casey Cummins, L, def. Lianna Sweet, VC, 6-4, ,6-2; Kaileigh Moser, VC, def. Kally Hacker, L, 7-5, 6-1; Megan Drury, SA, def. Breanna Brickey, DA, 7-5, 6-1; Shawnda Rohrbach, SA, def. Alisha Wiley, VC, 6-1, 6-0; Brittani Muir, DA, def. Megan McCue, L, 6-0, 6-0; Heather Kelly, SA, def. Adrienne Newton, VC, na; Jocelyn Caldwell, L, def. Jade Skinner, DA, 6-1, 6-1.

Quarterfinals

Wooldridge def. Cummins, 6-0, 6-0; Drury def. Moser, 7-6, 6-4; Rohrbach def. Muir, 7-5, 2-6, 6-2; Caldwell def. Kelly, 6-1, 6-3.

Consolation

Brickey def. Johnson, 6-0, 6-0; Hacker def. Sweet, 6-1, 6-2; Skinner def. Wiley, 6-1, 6-2; Newton def. McCue, 6-1, 6-0; Kelly def. Hacker, 6-4, 6-4; Cummins def. Skinner, 6-2, 6-2; Moser def. Newton, 6-2, 6-1.

Doubles

Quarterfinals

Myranda Kuhl/Hillary Stevens, SA, received a bye; Angela Holter/Allison Sawyer, L, ,def. Emily Lindquist/Bailee Harrison, DA, 6-0, 6-1; Brianna Massey/Courage Louviere, DA, def. Olivia Round/Shannon Eppard, L, 6-2, 6-3; Hailie Bahm/Caitlin Coleman, SA, def. Holly Lewis/Kyra Glidewell, VC, 6-0, 6-0.

Semifinals

Kuhl/Stevens def. Holter/Sawyer, 6-2, 6-2; Louviere/Massey, DA, def. Bahm/Coleman, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Consolation

Round/Eppard def. Lewis/Glidewell, 6-0, 6-0.

Dual meets at Corvallis

Boys

Corvallis 7, Stevensville 0

Singles – Alma Powell, Cor, d. Ivan Sole Martino 6-7 (9-7), 7-6 (7-3), 6-3; Ammon Venema, Cor, d. Michael Tummarello, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2; Cameron Wolff, Cor, Josh Schmiet, 6-2, 6-1; Tristan Warnken, Cor, d. John Severson, 6-4, 6-2.

Doubles – Bridger Walczynski/DJ Pekoc, Cor, def. Colten Belcourt/Joseph Fecteau, 6-0, 6-0; Jeremy Jessop/Shade Jessop, Cor, def. Daniel Bradt/Michael Bradt, 6-0, 6-4; Brock Fehr/Josh Venema, Cor, def. Lars Larson/Corbin Liston, 7-5, 6-4.

Girls

Corvallis 7, Stevensville 0

Singles – Laramie McHugh, Cor, def. Lakota Brist, 6-0, 6-0; Liz Hennessy, Cor, def. Mami Murray, 6-1, 6-1; Keenan Moore, Cor, def. Fernandi Clerici, 6-0, 6-0; Roxy Radamacher, Cor, def. Alliison Enzler, 6-2, 6-0.

Doubles - Sydnee Madruga/Megan Lengyel, Cor, def. Rachel Coyle/Mersadiez Leese, 6-2, 6-2; Annie Sangster/Emma Decker, Cor, def. Katelyn Hancock/Allison Enzler 6-1, 6-1; Lacey Allsop/Chelsea Reichard, Cor, def. Maddie Hebner/Jennifer Harthan 6-0, 6-0.

Bill Speltz can be reached at 523-5255 or bill.speltz@lee.net.

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Reporter Bill Speltz can be reached at 523-5255 or bill.speltz@lee.net.

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