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Trophy girls

Polson girls’ squad brings home the hardware from the Class A state tennis championships

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The Polson girls’ tennis team brought home the hardware from a hard-fought state tennis tournament in Billings last week. 

Battling through tough competition, inclement weather that forced the second day of play indoors, and some rough court conditions that included grass growing in cracks on the court, Polson’s girls’ squad finished off the season with a second-place finish at the Class A state tennis championships. Polson finished with 20 points behind a very talented Glendive team that earned the championship with 32 points.

Polson’s boys’ team also competed well, but finished out of the trophy hunt with three points.

Billings Central hosted the state tournament May 27-28, utilizing courts at two city parks and, on the final day, the indoor courts at Montana State University-Billings. 

Polson’s girls were led by two fourth-place finishes by Jane Probst in singles, and Kayla and Kendyall Rochin in doubles.

Kayla and Kendyall Rochin finished their career as a sister doubles team with a strong finish at state. On Thursday they opened the tournament with two solid wins that included two tiebreakers. In the first round they beat the Billings Central team of Gabby Weber and Trenna Thelen 7-6 (12-7), 6-3, then beat Sydnee Madruga and Lairen Phinney of Corvallis 7-6 (7-4), 3-6, 6-4.

That sent the Rochin sisters into Friday’s semifinals, where they ran into some familiar opponents. Emily Paffhausen and Sarah Downey, Dillon’s number one doubles team, had beaten the Rochins twice during the regular season. They made it a third time, handing the Polson team a 6-2, 6-3 loss.

“I don’t think they played their best match, but kept it competitive before falling 6-2, 6-3,” Polson head coach Bob Hislop said.

But the Rochins bounced back in the consolation bracket with a very well-played 6-4, 6-4 win over the Eastern Division champions, Carly Selvig and Blaire Milne of Glendive, to move into the third/fourth-place match. The Rochins had a tough end to their tennis partnership when they lost 6-1, 6-1 to the red-hot team of Morgan McCann and Jolee Langraf of Havre.

“Kayla and Kendyall had an amazing two years together, losing only one match in conference in two years (last week’s divisional championship) and reaching all state status both years,” Hislop said.

Jane Probst opened the singles tournament with two strong wins on Thursday. Probst beat Jessie Robinson of Billings Central 6-3, 6-3 in the first round.

“That was a great win, considering that Robinson had a 24-2 match record on the season,” Hislop noted.

Probst then won a marathon match over Corvallis’ Tabitha Hooten 6-4, 6-3 in the second round. Both girls kept the ball in play and dug up their opponent’s attempts at winners. 

“In her quarterfinal Jane had to adjust to the deliberate style of ... Hooten. It took a lot of 25-to-40 shot rallies to get through but Jane did that in straight sets,” Hislop said. 

In the semifinals on Friday, Probst lost a 6-4, 6-1 battle to Billings Central’s Taylor Steubs, who eventually lost a three-set championship match to finish second.

“Jane played some of the best tennis of her career but Steubs is amazingly steady and finally wore Jane down,” coach Hislop explained.

Probst came back in the consolation bracket and dispensed of Stephanie Huschka of Glendive 6-3, 7-5, before finishing her high school career in the match for third/fourth place. Probst succumbed to conference rival Jackie Mee of Libby 6-2, 6-0 to finish fourth.

“Jane finished the season 24-5 at number one singles, which is an amazing accomplishment,” Hislop said. “Jane had an amazing state tournament as I felt she would coming into the tournament.”

Polson’s other singles entry, Whitney Zimmerman went 1-2 at the state tournament. She lost her first round match to Steubs 6-2, 6-0, but bounced back with a consolation round win over Christina Mack of Havre 6-1, 6-0. She lost her second round consolation match to Hooten of Corvallis. After tying the match up 4-6, 6-4, Zimmerman had to default at the start of the third set due to a hamstring injury.

“It is always amazing to get a freshman to state, but to get her to state and then have her win a match in that convincing a fashion is very cool,” Hislop said.

The doubles team of Kelsie Howell and Mackenzie Clay went 1-2 at state, thanks in large part to some tough competition.

They started the tournament against Eastern Division champs Carly Selvig and Blaire Milne. After a rough first set against the tall Glendive team they settled in and played a very competitive second set before falling 6-1 6-3. They then won their first consolation match 6-4, 6-4 over Hamilton’s number one team of Stella Quinlan and Kelsey Della Silva. But Howell and Clay lost out in the next round to Lindsay Sebastian and Kyla Clancy of Billings Central 6-4, 6-4.

“They were a very solid number two team for us all year and represented themselves very well at state,” Hislop noted.

Polson loses a lot of talent and experience to graduation, but Hislop is looking forward to development of his young players.

“Kendyall (Rochin) will move to singles next year and the senior leadership of Jane (Probst), Kayla (Rochin), Kelsie (Howell) and Erika Nunlist will be sorely missed,” Hislop said. “The good news is that the Lady Pirates are very young and actually have a good players coming up out of the junior high to compete for varsity spots.”

Polson’s boys had some tough luck at state but were very competitive. 

Matt Roberts ended his high school career on a down note after two tough losses to Spencer Fehr of Corvallis (6-2, 6-4) and Ethan Bent of Lewistown (6-3, 6-4).

“Matt played a fabulous match versus Fehr, who eventually was the fifth place winner,” Hislop noted. “In his consolation match he lost 6-3, 6-4 to Bent who Matt had defeated earlier in the year.”

Polson’s doubles team of Shad Giles and Justin Evertz played well together, especially after cruising to a dominant 6-0, 6-0 win over first round opponent Kyle Massick and Michael Heger of Billings Central. In their second round match Giles and Evertz lost a tough 6-4, 6-4 battle to Luke Allsop and Dillon Murray of Corvallis, who eventually finished second in the tournament. 

“They had numerous opportunities to take control of both sets and couldn’t come up with key shots at key times,” Hislop said. 

In their loser-out match the Polson boys dominated the team of Steven Sheehy and Jesse Robins from Billings Central in the first set and then let the Rams squad back in the match with some untimely errors, eventually losing in a third-set tiebreaker 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (10-7).

“Shad and Justin are one of the best doubles teams I have coached in my 19 years as head coach and are really fun to watch,” Hislop said. Giles is one of the key seniors the team loses to graduation. 

“Shad and Matt (Roberts) will be greatly missed, as will fellow seniors Christian McCurdy and Jacob Browne. (But) this is one of the youngest boys’ teams we have ever put on the courts, so the future is bright for the Pirates,” Hislop concluded.

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