Against all indications that 2018 might be a down year for the team, the Lady Dogs capped off their season with a fifth place at the Class A State Tournament last week.
Head coach Patrick Dryden said the season was anything but a drop from previous seasons’ quality.
The team finished with a 10-5 dual record and a second-place finish at divisionals in addition to the fifth at state.
“So much for a rebuilding year,” Dryden said. “I think after losing so many talented kids from the 2016 state championship team and the 2017 divisional champ team this definitely seemed a rebuilding year, and we rebuilt very quickly.”
The doubles team of Aubrey Hanks and Olivia Potthoff finished third overall, with an overall tournament record of 5-1.
Dryden said he’s never seen sophomores compete in the state tournament like his team did.
“This is just unprecedented. I’ve seen underclassmen do well in singles, but doubles is dominated by seniors,” he said. “And to have two sophomores go 5-1 in the tournament and claim third place is pretty remarkable.”
Dryden said Potthoff and Hanks hit another level at the divisionals tournament and have been playing their best tennis since.
“At the divisional tournament they started communicating, and it led to more aggressive play at the net, and that continued at state. The serving improved, we had virtually no double faults. And Olivia put on a clinic at the net, she was the best in volleys in the tournament. Aubrey was incredibly steady at the baseline,” he said.
On the singles side, Dryden said Carloss started well but ran out of energy by the end of the tournament.
In her final match, Dryden said fatigue from a hot tournament in Polson set in.
“It just seemed that Claire lost a tough first set 7-5, battled back to win 6-3, but in that third set she bonked. I hadn’t seen that all year, but she really ran out of energy,” he said.
Dryden thanked his seniors for their leadership throughout the season.
This year’s seniors include Bella Wilson, Gracie Young, Hunter Grimes, Mackenzie Vick and Audrey Hyatt.
“Our seniors were responsible for the positive attitude throughout the season. They really brought a positive, fun approach to tennis, and that’s going to be sorely missed,” Dryden said.
On the other side, he said he’s excited what this team can do with a core of upperclassmen next year.
“Last year we took fifth as well, but all of those points graduated. This year, all of those points are from sophomores. We’ve got the nucleus to get it done,” he said. “We just have to keep swinging the racket throughout the summer. Everybody’s extremely excited.”
Class A State Tennis
Polson 24, Hardin 17, Belgrade 17, Corvallis 14, Livingston 12, Whitefish 12, Libby 12, Billings Central 10, Dillon 5, Stevensville 4, Hamilton 2, Havre 2, Glendive 1
Third place: Aubrey Hanks/Olivia Potthoff, Whitefish, def. Kyler Lundeen/Berkley Ellis, Polson, 6-0, 6-0