The Bulldogs dominated the Western A Divisional Tournament last week, coming away with singles, doubles and team titles.
Brendan Buls defended his divisional champion title, breezing past Polson’s Joe McDonald in the final by a score of 6-0, 6-0.
En route to the title match, Buls also took down Neils Getts of Columbia Falls, Libby’s Zack Morrison and Polson’s Makauly Morrison.
“It’s very similar to what he’s been doing all season. He plays a really aggressive game, and that’s really what he did when it mattered,” head coach Chris Schwaderer said. “He’s got all the shots in his quiver and he knows how to use them. He’s just a very intelligent tennis player.”
Along with Buls, Jayce Cripe defeated Neils Getts of Columbia Falls (6-4, 6-2) to take third place.
On the doubles side, Mark Anderson and Colter Upton beat John Gilk and Camryn Lingle of Columbia Falls by a 6-2, 6-2 score to defend their divisional title. Anderson won doubles last year with partner Forrest Kobelt, then a senior.
Schwaderer said he’s seen his doubles team take a step to the next level recently.
“They have really impressed me. I just have seen them really evolve over the course of the season from a team that was talented but rough to a team now that is really refining their skills. Tennis has got some fairly refined skills, and they’re starting to take it to the next level and really know how to move on the court and doubles strategy,” he said. “When they execute, they’re a very difficult team to beat.”
Carver Gilman finished with a win in the fourth round of the consolation bracket, while Highland Lee-French fell in the same round.
But as a team, Schwaderer was happy with how his players showed up.
“It was a great one — I was really nervous going into it. I just knew we had a mix of experienced and not-so-experienced players and I just didn’t know how some of the younger ones would do with the pressure, but everyone ended up doing really well,” he said.
Now it’s onto state for Buls, Cripe, Anderson and Upton.
The Class A State Tournament begins Thursday at the Flathead Valley Community College courts at 10 a.m.
Buls will open against Livingston-Park’s Brendan Johnson in the first round and could have a second shot against Polson’s McDonald in the next round if they both win.
Cripe will play Dalton Polesky of Miles City.
The doubles team will take on Dillon’s Turner Sawyer and Jovany Guillen.
Schwaderer said everyone is going to have to be “on” to have a shot at a repeat team title, but he’s confident in his players moving forward.
For Buls and Cripe, both players have shots at making an impact. On Buls’ side, he’s looking to improve on last year’s second place finish at state.
“There’s some definite talent at state, so [Buls] is going to have to stay mentally strong throughout the tournament and play his game. He knows exactly what his game is, it’s that aggressive game where he pushes the pace and he dictates the way the match is played. If he can do that, he ought to be able to advance.”
“It’s going to be a tough tournament,” he added about Cripe. “There are some good teams out there that are bringing pretty good numbers of players. Every point is going to count, and this could be a good year for Jayce to have a breakthrough.”
Northwestern A Divisional
Whitefish 56, Polson 46, Columbia Falls 26, Libby 17, Ronan 8
Brendan Buls, W, def. Joe McDonald, P, 6-0, 6-0
Jayce Cripe, W, def. Neils Getts, CF, 6-4, 6-2
Mark Anderson/Colter Upton, W, def. John Gilk/Camryn Lingle, CF, 6-2, 6-2
Kendal Forman-Webster/Bridger Wenzel, P, def. Anton Lefthand/Trevor Schultz, P, 6-4, 5-6, 6-3.