For the first time since 2008, the Bulldogs are state champions.
Whitefish boys tennis finished first at the Class A State Tournament in Polson and Ronan last week, along with Hardin and Corvallis, as part of a three-way tie.
Head coach Chris Schwaderer said the final result was “jaw dropping.”
“It was just a huge shock, a huge surprise,” he said. “I didn’t see the state championship coming — we never really talked about it.”
In team scores, Whitefish, Hardin and Corvallis all scored 20 points for first.
While the tie isn’t ideal, Schwaderer said he’s not going to be one to complain.
“I’m still very happy with that. It’s still a state championship,” he said.
In singles play, Brendan Buls continued his excellent season all the way into the final round.
He fell to Dillon’s Brad Rakich 6-3, 7-5 to take second place overall.
“He was just really intense and completely focused. He knew exactly what he needed to do,” Schwaderer said.
While Eric Holdhusen didn’t make it into the top five places, Schwaderer stressed how much his senior meant to the team’s success.
“I’m sure he was disappointed, but he definitely played his part,” he said. “On a season level, he was such a huge part of the team and Brendan’s success. They really sharpened each other’s skills. I attribute a lot of our success to Eric Holdhusen.”
Freshman Jayce Cripe made the tournament but was bested in his first two matches.
In doubles, the duo of Mark Anderson and Forrest Kobelt took down Hardin’s Ryan Old Crow and Famous Left Hand (6-4, 0-6, 6-3) to push the Bulldogs into first-place position.
Schwaderer said he tried to tell his doubles players the position they were in without putting too much pressure on Kobelt and Anderson.
“I just kind of let them know that at this point, every point matters. Even though we’re in the consolation side of the bracket, a lot of things can happen,” Schwaderer said. “I just said it’s important to get every point we can possibly get. It was one piece we needed to fall into place to get in the championship.”
Schwaderer said he’s not a “point counter” sort of coach, and he wasn’t even thinking about a championship until late in the tournament, when girls tennis coach Patrick Dryden pointed out how close the team was to first place.
In the end, Schwaderer said he and his team couldn’t be happier with the season they put together.
Whitefish finished the season with a 10-4 duals record, a first place in divisionals and a state championship.
Seniors on this year’s team were Zach Brandt, Noah Fauth, Kyiah Ingraham, Zach Meadows, Leo Motti, Simon Olivier, Luke Schwaiger, Jamie Schwartz, Kobelt and Holdhusen.
“I can’t emphasize enough how proud I am of this group,” he said. “It’s just such a likable team, I sincerely enjoy working with them. I knew all along that we were pretty deep and pretty talented, but I just sensed a determination to get better, a work ethic, commitment to the team that I think was really instrumental in getting us where we are.”
“We’re just a bunch of regular Whitefish kids that got into tennis and bought in to the program, and it paid off.”
Class A State Tennis
Whitefish 20, Hardin 20, Corvallis 20, Havre 18, Dillon 18, Butte Central 15, Polson 7, Livingston 6, Billings Central 2, Hamilton 2, Columbia Falls 1, Ronan 1, Lewistown 1.
Final: Brad Rakich, Dillon, def. Brandon Bule, Whitefish, 6-3, 7-5
Fifth place: Mark Anderson/Forrest Kobelt, Whitefish, def. Ryan Old Crow/Famous Left Hand, Hardin, 6-4, 0-6, 6-3