By Bill Foley
A lack of pressure just might be the key to success for Destiny Soennichsen and Keeley Pochervina.
The Butte High senior tennis players will open the Class AA State tennis meet Thursday in Kalispell playing, as they say, with house money.
“I’m not nervous,” Soennichsen said during a break in practice Monday afternoon at the West Elementary courts. “I think that’s what helps us is we don’t get nervous.”
Soennichsen will be making her second straight appearance at the state meet. Pochervina is heading there for the first time.
The duo qualified for state by placing third at the Southern AA Divisional tournament last Thursday and Friday in Bozeman. Their only loss in the tournament came to Helena Capital’s Fiona and Bridget Powers, the defending Class AA State doubles champions.
After that defeat in the semifinals, Soennichsen and Pochervina battled through the consolation bracket to eventually beat Bozeman’s Bree Luther and Rosie Mokwa in straight sets for third place.
The Butte team will open the state tournament against Missoula Hellgate’s Kate Koenig and Maya Hefferman. The Hellgate duo placed second at the Western AA Divisional meet in Missoula.
Pochervina said she and Soennichsen have the same, easy-going mentality.
“We don’t get like mad when we’re losing. We always just have fun,” she said. “We care if we win, but we don’t care if we lose at the same time. We just play our best.”
Soennichsen advanced to state with Ellie Kuoppola last season. Pochervina won a divisional match with teammate Sidney Christie.
First-year head coach Dorothy Joyce decided to pair Soennichsen with Pochervina at the beginning of the season. That Kuoppola missed the first part of the Bulldog schedule because she took a trip to Germany played into the decision.
Soennichsen and Keeley took the court for the first time against Missoula Big Sky. They won in straight sets, and have been gelling ever since, often wearing down the competition with their quickness and agility.
“They’re both so athletic,” Joyce said. “They get to everything.”
They also get each other.
“I’ve got a new doubles partner this year,” Soennichsen said. “I’ve got new connections and a new style of play. It will be good.”
Both Butte girls enter the court with the same style and philosophy.
“We’re ok with the outcome,” Soennichsen said. “We don’t blame ourselves or our teammates. It’s just a new point, a new ball.”
That style has been evolving as the season has gone on.
“I play at the net a little more,” Soennichsen said. “But at divisionals, we both got up at the net. We kind of got the attacking style going on.”
Soennichsen first picked up a tennis racquet when she went out for the Butte High team as a freshman. Two years later, she was at state.
That’s basically the same time frame for Pochervina, who started playing tennis as a sophomore. She said she never expected closing her career playing against the best the state has to offer.
“I just played for fun sophomore year,” Pochervina said. “I didn’t even know if I’d stick with it.”
Pochervina said she went to summer camps and played in summer tournaments. That, she said, is paying off in her senior season.
“I really like it,” she said of the sport.
The two Bulldogs approached the divisional tournament with an abandon.
“We played so well because it was kind of our last chance,” Soennichsen said. “We just wanted to end our senior year with a bang. Now we’re going to state. It would be cool to win, but we’re just happy that we’re there.”
Soennichsen and Pochervina say they plan to take on the state competition with the same attitude.
“We have nothing really to lose,” Pochervina said.