HELENA — The two local Class AA tennis teams hit the road later this week, headed for the 2018 State Tennis Tournament in Kalispell, which is being contested on Thursday and Friday.
Helena High captured the latest Southern AA boys championship in Bozeman, and placed runner-up in the girls division. Capital finished third in both categories.
At last year's state tourney, the CHS girls and Bengals boys both returned with the 2017 second-place team trophies.
Bozeman won the state title in boys and girls last season.
Helena's current group of state boys qualifiers are led by divisional singles champion Cory Bowlby, and the doubles runners-up Alex Seburn and Evan Martin. All three are seniors.
Bowlby placed as state runners-up last year, and defeated friendly crosstown rival Alex Hanson of Capital during last week's divisional finals 6-3, 6-1. Bowlby enters the state tourney with a 17-1 record, his lone defeat coming at the hands of Aidan Binau of Billings Skyview, when he finished second at the Helena Invitational.
Seburn and Martin dropped a two-set decision to Bozeman's Jackson Pedersen and Andrija Martinovic in the Southern division's chipper. Seburn was a 2017 all-stater, finishing fourth in the doubles division.
Also qualifying for state for the Bengals were singles players Clayton Ryerson and freshman Emma Hasquet, who both placed third at divisionals.
"Cory's key is to play to his potential, ball placement (is crucial) for the doubles team, and for Clayton it's shot selection," Helena coach Lance Bouchee said.
For coach Ryan Swenson's Capital team, joining Hanson as divisional runners-up are the doubles unit of twins Bridget and Fiona Powers, who dropped a 6-2, 6-4 decision to Annika Linkenbach and Laurel Wood of Bozeman in the Southern AA finals. All three Bruins qualifiers are seniors.
The Powers twins are last year's state champions, and own an 18-2 record this year. Their only other setback came at the hands of Annie Woods and McKenzy Gilsdorf (Billings Senior) in the Helena Invite semifinals, before the Capital duo bounced back to place third in the tourney.
Bowlby, Hanson, and Bridget and Fiona are each appearing in their third Class AA state tennis tourney.
"To be successful at state we need to cut out unforced errors, make opponents play to our game rather than to theirs, create opportunities to finish points, and then take advantage of those opportunities," Swenson said. "Alex, Fiona and Bridget are as talented as they come, and have worked just as hard as anyone to get to this point.
"I'm confident that playing their best, they'll have a good weekend ahead of them."