There were several who came close, but following two days of action Hannah Stokke was the lone Belgrade tennis player to qualify for state Wednesday in Lewistown.
The senior reached the semifinals competing at No. 1 singles during the Central A Divisional, and then following a 6-0, 6-4 loss to Havre’s McKenzie Tommerup, qualified for state after reaching the consolation match.
“Hanna had beaten McKenzie last weekend, so they were pretty close,” Belgrade coach Justin Arndt noted. “They both played really well. It was a tough match.”
Stokke, who posted a 4-1 record at the tournament, bounced back to beat Fergus County’s Tessa Gatz, 6-0, 6-3, in the consolation match to place third. The top four singles players advanced to state, which is May 23-25 in Kalispell.
“Tessa didn’t actually go to state last year, but Tessa’s going this year. So that’s good,” said Arndt. “They seem to meet each other every year those two. They’ve got a good relationship and they always have really good matches together. They’ve pushed each other the past few years.”
In doubles action, the Panthers’ tandem of Remi Gordon and Claire Culbertson, as well as Maliah Beauchaine and Ava Wagner, finished just one victory shy of reaching state.
On the boys’ side, Dawson Brooks was two wins away from qualifying for state at No. 4 singles.
“He really performed beyond our expectations,” said Arndt. “That was really cool to see as well.”
While Stokke was the only Panther to advance, the coaching staff was pleased with the effort of the entire team.
“There was a lot of good stuff that happened,” said Arndt. “There’s so much growth potential going into double A for these guys, so that was really good.”
Belgrade moves up to Class AA in all sports beginning with the 2019-20 school year, and the tennis team spent the first month of this season competing against AA competition.
“We kind of got to see what’s in store for us with our big young team,” said Arndt. “I feel really good about going into double A next year and the year after ... there’s a lot of promise.”
Havre’s boys won the team championship, while its girls were second. The Blue Ponies qualified four doubles teams and a pair of individuals for the state tournament.
Havre won the boys championship with 52 points, while Park, Fergus and Belgrade rounded out the team scoring with 32, 28 and 10, respectively.
Park edged Havre, 40-45, to win the girls’ title, while Belgrade placed third with 20 points. Fergus was fourth with 13.