By Bill Foley
Hannah Amtmann never dreamed she would be in this spot.
The Butte High senior did not even go out for tennis as a freshman. Instead, she ran distance races on the Bulldog track team.
But when the Class AA State tennis tournament begins Thursday in Great Falls, Amtmann will be playing with the best players in Montana. Amtmann, the lone Butte High Bulldog playing at State, will be the No. 2 seed from the Southern AA.
Amtmann, who placed second at the divisional tournament last week in Helena, will play Casey Nelson of Missoula Big Sky in Thursday’s first round. (Brackets)
Only the top four players at divisionals moved on to the State tournament, which will be filled with players who started competing in their sport more than two years ago.
“When I play the No. 1 girls, they are all like, ‘Yeah, I’ve been playing that girl from Hellgate in tournaments since we were 11,’” Amtmann said before a practice at Stodden Park this week. “I’m like, ‘Oh, I was on JV my sophomore year.”
If you haven’t watched Amtmann’s style on the tennis court, you probably saw it on the volleyball court.
Amtmann, who will play volleyball on scholarship for MSU-Northern in the fall, earned All-State honors as a libero for the Bulldogs last season.
On the volleyball court, Amtmann was known as a quick and scrappy defensive specials who often threw herself the court to get the dig.
“That describes her (tennis) game, too,” Bulldog tennis coach Mavis Bentley said.
On the tennis court, Amtmann is a pest who just won’t let any balls get past her.
“Mavis calls me a backboard because I just get everything back to them and wait until they make a mistake,” Amtmann said. “I frustrate (opponents) a lot. They’re used to a lot of high spins, and they stay really far back. My shots are really short, and it makes them run and they can’t hit the ball like normal.”
Amtmann works on putting the ball in the right spot against opponents who typically are trying to overpower her.
“Playing the No. 1 girls you learn how to place the ball, especially with their hard shots,” she said. “I don’t really hit the ball hard back to them with a lot of spin. I usually just try to go short-deep on them, and it throws them off their game.”
This week, Bentley, who can now focus one-on-one with her lone player still in contention, is focusing on Amtmann getting a put-away shot for the State tournament.
“We’re working on it,” Amtmann said. “I just got a new racquet. It’s a little heavier so I can hit it harder.”
Amtmann enters the tournament with some realistic expectations. She is hopeful of placing in the top four, possibly higher. She said Bozeman’s Madison Shea is the player to beat.
Shea beat Amtmann 6-0, 6-0 in the divisional championship match last week. Amtmann said the Bozeman No. 1 player is in a league of her own.
“I could beat probably anybody else in the state,” Amtmann said. “She’s on another level.”
Late in the season, the Bulldogs got a heavy diet of competition with Helena High and Helena Capital. It was during that stretch that Amtmann really stepped up her game and eventually saw the door open up for a berth in the State tournament.
“I actually didn’t plan on (playing at State) at all until about three weeks ago when I started taking down some girls that I never thought I’d be able to beat,” Amtmann said. “Then I thought if I could seed myself good enough going into divisionals I’d have a chance to place and go to State.”
So Amtmann, whose older sister Aidan went to State for Butte High twice with two different doubles partners, basically began the postseason three weeks before the rest of the state, and she earned the No. 2 seed at the divisional with some key late-season victories.
“I knew that I had to beat them if I was going to be seeded well at divisionals,” Amtmann said. “I had to keep that mentality because I really wanted to be seeded second. I was feeling a lot of pressure to win those games.”
On Thursday, the pressure will be on everybody else because they’ll be playing an opponent they probably never even heard of two years ago.
“I’m excited,” Amtmann said. “It’s going to be fun.” 1 comment