Apr. 3—There’s been only two times that Josh Munro can remember where the weather has been nice enough to melt the snow by the time spring tennis practices start.
One of them was last year and the other this year, the Glacier tennis coach recalled.
Last year, though, high school teams completed only a week of practices before the season was cancelled altogether.
That makes things even more interesting, taking into account that it’s been two full years since a high school tennis match was played in Montana. Teams have changed a lot during that time and no one knows what to expect.
There won’t be spectator limits, per MHSA guidelines, but attendees are expected to wear masks and practice social distancing. The same goes for coaches. Players will mask up when they aren’t playing.
Flathead and Glacier will kick off the season today at FVCC, with matches against Helena High and Helena Capital starting at noon.
The Wolfpack took a hit by losing 26 seniors but their ranks have started soaring back to normal this spring. There are close to 90 players between JV and varsity.
“We are very much a young inexperienced lineup but it’s kind of fun,” Munro said. “We are setting the table for our future this year. Building our foundation to kind of get back to where we were two years ago.”
The boys squad is made up of mostly sophomores, the girls mostly freshmen.
Among the more experienced players is Rory Smith, who won the State AA singles title in 2019 as a sophomore. Munro noted that Bozeman’s Connor Joly, who Smith defeated for the singles title, will also be back.
“He will get his shot at trying to repeat,” Munro said of Smith.
Ethan Purdy, who competed in doubles at state in 2019, will start the season playing singles.
“We will see how the year evolves,” Munro said. “Tennis every year comes down to matchups and what happens in our division. We are trying to put people in the best position to do well at state.”
Senior Mariah Dickey moves up to the girls’ No. 1 singles spot from No. 4 two years ago.
“It’s different than it was two years ago but she’s different than she was two years ago,” Munro said.
Also of note on the girls’ side is Mackenzie Baker, who has only played one varsity match in her career but was a swing player on the JV two seasons before.
Glacier’s boys were fourth at state in 2019 and the girls were fifth.
“It’s a reset, you get to hit the restart button,” Munro added. “Everyone’s coming into this year with different expectations because no one knows what the rest of the state looks like.”
Jimmy Cripe has a little bit of a smaller squad at Flathead, but returns quite a few players.
He estimates there are near 60 players on JV and varsity teams.
“I’m excited but I think the kids are much more excited,” Cripe said.
Nolan White and Joston Cripe return for Flathead — both went to state in 2019. White is one of seven seniors on the boys’ side.
The girls have nine seniors, including Emma Hawkins (who went to state two years ago), Avery Cherot and golf standout Marcella Mercer.
Though the program is smaller than the school across town, Cripe is happy with the offseason effort put in by the students.
“After the season got shut down last year it was amazing to see how many of them got outside to play over the summer,” he said. “We’ve made a lot of strides even missing a season. Our philosophy is everyone is out there to have as much fun as possible.”
Today is prom, which creates a slight schedule conflict for the players attending. Cripe says he might play some JV players in the afternoon matches to get them some playing time and allow the prom-goers time to get ready, since the event was cancelled last year.