The Whitefish boys tennis team capped off the season on a high note, with Brendan Buls taking second in singles and the team winning silver overall.
Head coach Chris Schwaderer said he was happy with another strong finish for his team this year.
“I thought it was a success. It was a great tournament. I thought everyone played really well and was very competitive,” he said. “This year and last year are the only two years we’ve ever been in the hardware at the state tournament. I think it’s a huge accomplishment. It says a lot about the direction the program is heading.”
Buls beat a number of high-caliber players en route to the title match, including Caleb Warnken of Corvallis and Famous Lefthand of Hardin.
Brad Rakich of Dillon defended his title, though Buls put up a fight. Rackich won 6-3, 7-6 (8).
“He went down swinging,” Schwaderer said of Buls. “Brad Rakich is a two-time champion. He’s really tough, but still I thought Buls played a really good match. I’m really proud of Buls and just the way he developed and how mature he is .”
Rakich last year defeated Buls in the title match as well.
That puts an end to a stellar Bulldog career for Buls as well, and Schwaderer says his top singles player will be missed.
“Buls is difficult just because he’s an elite player in the state. Not only is he worth a lot of points to us, but he’s like having a second coach out there. He’s so helpful with the younger kids and he has a great eye for the game. He offers so much. It’s going to be a multi-dimensional loss not having him around,” he said.
On the doubles side, Mark Anderson and Colter Upton finished fourth overall, falling to Tommy Brown and Tyrel Kjersen of Havre in the third-place match, 6-4, 7-6 (7).
The finish might not be what Anderson and Upton wanted, but Schwaderer said they gave it their all in an intense semifinal match.
Earlier in the day, Anderson and Upton fell to Mark Southam and Nathaniel Leonardson of Dillon 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in the semifinals.
“That team was really tough,” he said. “We kind of got off to a slow start but really turned it around and started playing aggressively. They just came up a little bit short.”
“It was a shame they had to run into them in the semifinals,” he added. “I think they probably could’ve played in the championship match, I think those were two of the better teams and after they got down it made it harder to bounce back. They still had a really strong tournament.”
Jayce Cripe fought hard in the tournament, but fell to Dalton Polesky of Miles City 6-2, 6-2 and Aubry Potier of Corvallis 7-5, 6-7 (7), 6-4.
Schwaderer said this tournament was key for showing Cripe what his potential is for the future.
“Jayce just continues to get better and better. I think he got a real taste of what his potential is in this tournament and I think he knows moving forward he can be a really valuable competitor for us. It was a great experience to get out there and experience some high levels of comp and see he can be right there,” he said. “I have a feeling he’s going to work hard in the offseason.”
The team loses some key seniors this year, notably Buls, Anderson and Carver Gilman, and those are big shoes to fill, Schwaderer said.
“Those guys are hard to replace as anybody we’ve had in recent memory,” he said. “Mark is one of the great success stories of this program. He wasn’t even sure he was going to play tennis three years ago, I had to talk him into it and he was an absolutely raw beginner. The doubles team he led, I still think they’re arguably the best doubles team we’ve had in years.”
“Carver’s a great competitor,” he added. “In a lot of ways he kind of exemplifies the Bulldog tennis ethic.”
It’s tough ending such a strong season, Schwaderer said, but he’s optimistic about what the future brings.
“A the end of the year, it’s hard to let the season go and let some of these kids go. I just have so much fun doing it. It means a lot to me to be out there playing with them, and we spend hundred of hours together of the course of the years and it’s always kind of a shock,” he said. “Hopefully success will just continue to breed success. We’ve got a bunch of great young kids coming in who I think have a ton of potential.”
Brendan Buls (Whitefish) def. Famous Lefthand (Hardin) 6-0, 6-1;
Rakich (Dillon) def. Buls 6-3, 7-6 (8).
Mark Southam/Nathaniel Leonardson (Dillon) def. Mark Anderson/Colter Upton (Whitefish) 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.
Anderson/Upton (W) def. Gilk/Lingle 6-3, 6-2.
Brown/Kjersen (Havre) def. Anderson/Upton 6-4, 7-6 (7).
Dillon 33, Whitefish 22, Hardin 21