Butte High’s tennis teams open the season Saturday with a cast of familiar names and faces.
The Bulldogs play Missoula Big Sky at noon at Stodden Park and West Elementary School. (Note: the start time was moved up two hours from the original schedule.)
Doubles play will be held at Stodden, while singles will take place on the refurbished courts at West.
The Bulldogs open the season with a solid group of returning players on the boys’ and girls’ sides. Butte High has 18 seniors — 10 boys and eight girls — to start the season.
“We’ve got a lot of experience,” long-time Butte High coach Mavis Bentley said. “We have a ton of seniors. Most have been with me three if not four years.”
The Bulldogs will play in a very tough conference with Bozeman and Helena Capital. Still, Bentley said she is hopeful the Bulldogs will be well represented at the Class AA State tournament, which May 14-15 in Helena.
The divisional tournament is the week before in Bozeman.
“They could be competitive,” Bentley said. “Optimistically, I’d lie to take a boys’ and girls’ singles team and a boys’ and girls’ doubles team (to State), if not two. If we play well and get a good draw, it’s doable.”
The draw could be key, Bentley said, pointing to McKaul Ori and Sierra McGinnis last season. The seniors saw a strong junior season turn into a missed State tournament thanks to an extremely tough draw at divisionals.
Ori and McGinnis will be the No. 1 doubles team this season, taking over for Molly Nelson and Aidan Amtmann, who made a run at the State tournament. Ori and McGinnis, who started last season with a long winning streak, enter their third season as a doubles tandem.
Butte High lost Amtmann to graduation. Nelson will move back to singles, where she has had past success, for her senior season. She has a stronghold on the No. 1 spot on the team.
Sophomore Madi Jones is back and will play in the No. 2 hole. Junior Hannah Amtmann will play at No. 3, while Jacee Sprunger will play No. 4.
Junior Jessica Rosa will also be in the mix when she returns from an injury.
Senior Molly Sprunger and classmate Lakyn Ludwick be the No. 2 doubles team, while seniors Carlee Johnson and Sydney Jennings will play in the No. 3 slot.
The sophomore-freshman team of Janae and Jo Valle will play at No. 4.
Other Bulldog girls who will be playing junior varsity and working toward a future varsity spot are sophomores Caitlyn Sheehan and Alyssa Cook and freshman Kaytelin Hudson, Emma Lee Hildreth, Erin Fogarty, Shanna Madison, Hayley Boyd, Eryn Metesh, Julia Vercena and Maya Robins.
On the boys’ side, senior Tyler Reilly is the unquestioned No. 1 player for the Bulldogs. Classmates Blake Casagranda and Levin Mullaney are No. 2 and 3, while freshman Erik Casagranda will play No. 5.
Blake Casagrnada will miss Saturday’s competition because of a previous commitment. Sophomore Braden Layda will slide into a varsity singles spot in his place.
Senior Lucas Tenney will likely play varsity once he returns from a shoulder injury.
Experienced sophomore Brett Bentley and senior Andy Kelly will play No. 1 doubles for the Bulldogs, at least in the opener.
Seniors Nate Scherman and Marcus Madrazo are the No. 2 team to start the season, while Junior Tyler Ossello and senior Seth Jaksha will play No. 3. Seniors Mike Hogan and Jory Nordstrom will play in the No. 4 slot.
Coach Bentley said those boys’ doubles positions could change throughout the season.
Other boys’ players who will compete for the Bulldogs this season are senior Hunter Carroll, junior Keaton Ball, sophomores Alex Kober, Matt Donner and Kaleb Staudohar, and freshman John Vanlaky, Tristan Smith, John Berryman, Charles Call, Josh Hendrick, David Hause and Connor Stanghill.
Bentley will be assisted again by Jennie Reilly. Kody Lane, a 2013 graduate who is a former No. 1 Butte High singles player, is a volunteer assistant.