Where: Bozeman High School and Montana State tennis courts.
When: Friday and Saturday, starting at 8 a.m.
Last year: Great Falls High claimed the team title and Missoula Sentinel placed second, led by state singles champ Braden Olson.
This year: Bozeman will be tough to beat, combining hometown crowd support with excellent depth. The Hawks cleaned up at their divisional tournament, qualifying four singles players and three doubles teams. Billings Senior will also field a solid team. Sentinel could be a top-three trophy contender, even though Coach Craig Olson's Spartans have only two entrants: Braden Olson, the coach's son, and junior Paul Baumgartner. They rank among the field's top four singles players, joining Kyle Wilson of Bozeman and Kevin Harris of Billings Senior. Olson is the favorite to repeat his singles title with an 18-0 season record, but he's been pushed by several foes, most notably Baumgartner. Missoula Hellgate is led by freshman singles player Jake Childress, and the divisional champ doubles tandem of Caleb Sandford and Ray Gamradt.
Quotable: "Braden and Paul will likely have to win through and meet in the finals for us to have a chance," said Craig Olson. "Bozeman's depth will be tough to beat."
Last year: Kalispell took the championship without winning a singles or doubles title. Sentinel was third, Hellgate fourth. Sentinel freshman Ristine Olson defeated Hellgate junior Lindsey Torgerson, the two-time defending champ, for the singles crown.
This year: Bozeman and Billings West are probably the co-favorites. Kalispell isn't considered a title contender, but Sentinel should grab a top-three trophy. Ristine Olson has won the first 41 matches of her prep career without a loss - she's 19-0 as a sophomore. Senior Jaclyn Morgan and freshman Hollin Buck also made the state field in singles, and juniors Nylene Wicks and Jenny Harris qualified in doubles for the third straight year. Torgerson took Olson to three sets for the title last year, and should put up another good fight this time around. The Knights also have a divisional champ doubles team in Cate Campbell and Holly Mylander.
Quotable: "I think our girls have a chance if Ristine can repeat, and everyone else wins a match or two," Craig Olson said. "It should be a very competitive tournament."
- Rial Cummings, Missoulian
Where: University of Montana Lindsay Tennis Courts.
When: Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 a.m.
Last year: Valley Christian claimed both the singles and doubles titles to earn top team honors for the third year in a row. Cut Bank took second and St. Ignatius finished a distant third.
This year: Valley Christian, St. Ignatius and Missoula Loyola are the best from the West. The Eagles' Chris Jackson won the Southern divisional last weekend. Jackson knocked off Loyola's Dustin Williams 6-1, 6-3 in the championship match and is a favorite to capture the singles crown. Valley Christian qualified two doubles teams for state. … The Eagles will have to fight off Keithan Gregg and Cut Bank to earn their fourth title in a row. Gregg beat Conrad's Nick Hofstad in the Northern divisional singles finals. The Wolves also qualified two doubles teams. … St. Ignatius' Will Flemming, Brian Morton and Hugh Daniels finished 1-2-3 at the Western B-C divisional in Libby.
Last year: Superior claimed the singles and doubles titles, but Conrad edged the Bobcats to win the team championship. Boulder finished third and Darby took fourth.
This year: Boulder is the favorite. The Panthers had an easy victory at the Southeastern divisional, and Virginia Thompson is arguably the best singles player in the class. … Superior, which hosts the tournament at UM, captured both the singles and doubles crowns at the Southwestern divisional. The Bobcats send two doubles teams to state, and singles player Kera Sevalstad was a straight-set winner over Loyola's Rachel Haynes in the championship match. Valley Christian's Rachel Link placed third. … Darby's Bonny Bower and Amber Miller are strong singles players. The Tigers finished a distant second to Boulder at the Southeastern divisional.
Quotable: "The toughest team in the state is Boulder," said Valley Christian head coach Steve Jackson. "But that's why they play the tournament, because things could change."
-J.J. Benzak, Missoulian