BC opens tennis season with high hopes

By Derek Hendrickson

The Butte Central Maroon tennis team opens the 2013 season Thursday with matches against Anaconda and Stevensville at noon at the Missoula Loyola Invite.  The Maroon boys have their sights set on bringing home some hardware after placing second the past two years at the Southwestern A Divisional tournament.

The girls will be seeing some new faces and looking to build toward the future while getting some leadership from the few returning players.

Butte Central is led by first year head coach Bernie Carey, who moves up from his assistant role the past two years.  His new assistant is principal Tim Norbeck and both have high hopes for their team this year.

“We understood that a second-place finish in the division against the tennis powerhouses of the Bitterroot Valley was an incredible accomplishment,” Carey said. “We also began looking at what the Bitterroot schools were graduating that year, and we knew right then and there, the potential we had for the 2013 season.”

The BC boys will battle against three-time defending state champion Corvallis and last year’s runner up Stevensville for the Southwest Divisional title. The Maroons placed fifth overall at state last year as a team and took second in the doubles bracket. Central only graduated two players on the boys side, Cole Noctor and Colin Hollow. Both qualified for their second state tournaments last year and leave big shoes to fill.

The remaining Maroon boys showed up in copious numbers to the summer tennis camps and are geared to finally claiming the top spot.

The boys are led by returning All-State performer Derek Ralph, one half of the doubles team that made a run all the way to the championship match last spring.  Ralph, a senior, spent most of last season as the number one singles player before teaming up with Noctor to make the late season push and will return to playing on his own this year. He and four-year varsity player Northey Tretheway have battled for the top seed and will continue to push each other all season.

Carey had high praise for his top two singles players. “Both are great athletes with unique playing styles,” the coach said. “Derek brings quality state tournament experience to the table, and Northey brings his incredible athleticism that is almost impossible to match. The two are very tough to beat, and a marvel to watch. They will make a great one-two combo at our top singles positions.”

Junior Kale Guldseth is competing for the top spot he held after Ralph switched to doubles last season. Senior Jack Gallagher has held off junior Jesse Reinke for the final singles placement and all three will battle for their varsity spot.

“Kale and Jack picked up the sport last season and were both naturals,” Carey said. “With every practice they continue to improve and develop confidence. I anticipate some epic matches with them at the No. 3 and No. 4 singles spots. Jesse’s work ethic is paying off daily. Reinke has been chomping at the heels of the varsity guys, and I’d imagine he’ll be earning some varsity playing time this season.”

Chienlun Weng is a senior exchange student who hasn’t played tennis before. He does brings some ping pong experience to the table and has been showing steady improvement after being recruited by Kaden Peeples.

The top doubles team consists of senior cousins Frank and Jim Joyce. The duo has been one match from qualifying for state in both of the past two seasons and are primed to punch their ticket next month.

“When two people play together as long as they have, in addition to being related, it makes for a great pairing,” Carey said of his number one doubles team.  “Communication, movement, skills, you name it — they got game. And the best part is they are ready to prove it.”

The Joyces are getting tough competition from fellow seniors Kolten Lamiaux and Peeples who have a ton of varsity experience including a 13 match win streak last year.  The number three doubles spot is held by juniors Tyler Trudnowski and Patrick Kenney.

“Coaching is like counseling and with Paddy and Trudy, who are best friends; I’m definitely coach and doctor,” Carey reported about his up and down team. “We’ve got tons of faith in this pairing and believe the sky is the limit with them.  Right now the key for them is patience and experience.  When they finally put it together, I guarantee nobody will be able to stop them.”

The boy’s junior varsity doubles pairings consist of Frank Hendrickson and Seth Powers, Devin Maloughney and Chance Standish, Brant Ahhlborn and Duane Gullick, and Sam Joyce and Sam Sterns.  “It will be very exciting watching them battling each other for that No. 3 doubles varsity position,” Carey said of the subvarsity boys.

The BC girls are in a rebuilding phase this year.

“We lost five senior girls this season due to jobs and other obligations,” Carey said.  “It is sad not to have them back for their final run.  They brought allot of enthusiasm to the squad.  Fortunately we have some returning members who will hold down the fort.”

Returning to the team are Danee Leary, Nici Rosencrans, and Yi Chin Lee. Sophomore Kara Criscuolo and freshmen Sara Drew, Ali Guldseth, and Kelsie Quinn will be the new faces to the team this season.

“Anything is possible for our ladies this season.  I’m hoping our veterans have a good year, get wins under their belts, and provide some mentorship to our new underclassmen.”

Leary teamed with Kacie McKeon last season in both their first year playing and ended up losing a close match to just miss out on a berth at state and will look to improve on that this year.