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Guide to the Class B-C state tennis tournament

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BOZEMAN — All eyes will be on Missoula Loyola … and the sky.

The Class B-C state tennis tournament has been moved up one day because of this week’s weather forecast in Bozeman, according to the Montana High School Association. The tourney that was scheduled to run from Thursday through Saturday will now start on Wednesday and end Friday.

A picture perfect Wednesday forecast will devolve into windy, possibly rainy weather Thursday and rainy, possibly snowy weather on Friday. Saturday is expected to be clear with temperatures back above 50, and the tournament has access to Montana State’s indoor Bobcat-Anderson Tennis Center if necessary.

Competitors this week hope to rain on Loyola’s parade. The Breakers won the State B-C girls team, doubles and singles championships last spring, while the defending champion Rams finished a boys doubles title shy of completing a clean sweep. Both of those singles champions are back, and Loyola has a good chance to win both doubles titles.

The State B-C tournament is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. Wednesday. Following is a breakdown of the individual and team contenders:

State B-C Tennis

May 18-20

at Bozeman and Bozeman Gallatin high schools

2021 individual champions: Jake Bellamah, Missoula Loyola (boys singles); Evelyn Dechans, Loyola (girls singles); Dillon Gray/Brett Sneed, Cut Bank (boys doubles); Ava Bellamah/Grace Daniel, Loyola (girls doubles)

2021 team champions: Missoula Loyola (boys); Missoula Loyola (girls)

The Loyola girls are going for their third straight State B-C team title, a feat they might’ve already achieved if not for the 2020 pandemic-canceled season. It’s easy to envision the streak continuing.

Like her team, Dechans would likely be going for a rare four-peat if not for COVID-19. Only four girls have won four singles championships in state history. Winning three is no small consolation — Dechans would become the eighth Montana girl to ever do it.

Maybe the most likely player to unseat Dechans is her sophomore teammate Gio Horner, who Dechans beat 6-1, 6-0 for last year’s championship. Horner might win a first-place trophy this year, only as a doubles player. She has teamed up with sophomore best friend Ava Bellamah, who won last year’s state girls doubles title with then-senior cousin Grace Daniel. The Bellamah-Horner duo is undefeated this season.

A couple girls singles players who could give Dechans a run: Simms junior Laura Zietzke, who lost to Horner in last year’s state semifinals; and Choteau senior Katie Major, who lost to Dechans in the round of 16 at state last year and beat the other semifinalist — Conrad senior Natalie Broesder — at last month’s divisional preview tournament.

Last season’s Breakers finished with 54 points at state, two shy of the Montana girls team record (both in B-C and overall).

The Loyola boys have two back-to-back State B-C titles in sight: as a team and on the singles side.

Jake Bellamah earned his first state title last year as a junior, and his boys singles triumph lifted the Rams to their first team title since 2013. He hasn’t lost a singles match since the 2019 State B-C quarterfinals.

Bellamah beat Valley Christian’s Riley Reimer, now a senior, by a score of 6-1, 6-2 in last year’s state championship singles match. Reimer was the only opponent to win a set against Bellamah last season.

The lone non-Loyola champion last May was the Cut Bank boys doubles team of Dillon Gray and Brett Sneed. Gray is back but Sneed graduated last year, the same situation as the duo they beat: St. Ignatius’ Kayden Carter is playing this season without his partner Lalo Bravo, who was a senior in 2021. The team Gray and Sneed beat in the semifinals, Loyola’s Finn Richardson and Carter Topp, also graduated one of its players (Richardson).

Loyola’s Sam Caras and Joe Kirschenmann lost to Bravo and Carter in last year’s state semifinals, and both are back this season. Caras has played (and succeeded) with Montas O’Neil this spring, and Topp has paired up with Dillon Taylor. Perhaps one of the Rams’ many potential doubles combinations can take first place this week … and complete a clean Loyola sweep.

Email Victor Flores at victor.flores@406mtsports.com and follow him on Twitter at @VictorFlores406

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