KALISPELL – A pair of defending champs from Bozeman once again celebrated a title at the state AA tennis tournament, and the teams from Billings Senior also claimed some well-earned hardware in Kalispell on Friday.
Senior swept the boys and girls teams titles, although they finished tied for the girls top spot with Bozeman. That gives the Hawks a share of their seventh consecutive state championship. Great Falls CMR finished third in the girls race, only a single point behind Senior and Bozeman’s total of 22. The Bronc boys claimed their crown more comfortably, beating the two-time defending champion and second place Bozeman Hawks 23-18.
Defending girls singles champ Heather Sikoski once again finished number one in her bracket, but it wasn’t easy for the Bozeman star. Sikoski held of CMR’s Mackenzie George in the final, 6-2, 7-6(3). And Sikoski knew she had to finish the match in the second set, because she was still exhausted from her marathon semifinal win over Kalispell Glacier’s Maria Frampton (6-7, 6-4, 6-1) earlier in the day.
“Semifinal was about three hours and a quarter I was told,” said Sikoski. “This one, I have no idea but well over an hour and a half. I feel like I really earned it this year. I really feel like I had a lot of competition. And I put my best foot forward. It was really mental this year. I knew I had to be determined and play my best out there.”
The junior admitted she felt double the pressure this season to repeat. And she knows it will probably triple to go for the three-peat as a senior next spring.
Bozeman also claimed the boys doubles championship. Jackson Pederson and Andrija Marinovic rolled through the bracket without coming close to losing a set. They took down the Missoula Sentinel pair of Ethan Viloette and Cody Curtis in the final, 6-3, 6-2. Pederson won last year’s title with a different partner, and he said this year’s win felt much different.
“It wasn’t quite as easy as last year,” admitted Pedersen. “Me transitioning from singles. We had some rough patches. And only having, what we’ve been playing for three weeks together? We had a lot of stuff to work out. We improved so drastic, it feels really good.”
Martinovic shared a title with Pedersen, but not the same sentiment. “I said it before, I knew we were going to be state champions. I said it three weeks ago. It was easy.”
The haul of trophies heading back to Billings with the Broncs included the boys singles title. Senior’s Jesse Dimich-Louvet took down Missoula Big Sky’s Liam Johnson 6-1, 6-4 in the final. Dimich-Louvet lost his first set in the quarterfinals, and went to a tiebreak in the first set of his semifinal match. But he always had the finishing touch to close out a storybook ending that he didn’t see coming.
“12 months ago I was sitting in my room in Paris, France,” said Dimich-Louvet. “And my mom said we were moving to Montana. And so I was shocked. And I got the chance to play for the Billings Senior High Broncs. And to win the title it’s just, I’m kind of at a loss for words right now. You work really hard all winter. And that’s what you practice for is these big matches.”
The most dominating performance from the week might have belonged to Missoula Hellgate’s girls doubles team of Olivia Panarella and Hannah Worden. The pair of Knights stormed through the bracket in straight sets, and put away Billings Senior’s Makenzy Gilsdorf and Annie Woods in the final. Hellgate’s competitive drive was evident in the last match. After a 6-3 win in the first set, the Knights refused to give an inch in the final set, sweeping the Broncs 6-0.
“Going into it every day I told Olivia, I want to win,” admitted Worden. “I don’t want to lose. I hate the feeling of losing. And so going into every game and every match we just went all for it. And we just wanted to win.”
“Yeah, it was pretty simple,” added Panarella. “We just wanted to win.”