HAVRE – George Ferguson has seen a lot in his 18 years with the Havre High tennis program. The Blue Ponies won six straight Class A boys titles from 2000 to 2005, while the Blue Pony girls earned titles in 2002, 2006 and 2009.
But one of the most consistent tendencies of the Havre tennis program has been the success in boys doubles.
“Right away, when I got a hold of this program I inherited some really good players and really good teams,” Ferguson said. “One of those was Marc Mariani and Gary Wagner, so for me, it kind of started there. They were my No. 1 doubles team when I took over and I think it’s been passed down, handed down, that doubles tradition. We work pretty hard at it. Kids enjoy playing doubles. Not everybody gets to do it, but everybody wants to do it. Doubles is fun, you get a partner, you get to play a different style of tennis. some kids embrace it, and again, Kennedy and Trey certainly have.”
Kennedy McKay and Trey Murphy entered the season next in line to carry on the proud tradition, and it’s a combo that started strong four seasons back.
“Our freshman year we had to battle up on varsity to go to divisionals. We made it to the semifinals as a No. 3 doubles team,” said McKay.
“We were just really excited,” added Murphy. “There was no expectation, so you could go in there and give it your best shot. If you lose, you know, you’re supposed to. But if you win, it’s a great thing.”
McKay and Murphy waited in the wings for their shot at being top dog for the Blue Ponies. Before a duo earns its opportunity at No. 1, it must show its value against the current varsity doubles team. For McKay and Murphy, that meant battling last season’s runners-up, Jake Sedahl and Nate Korb.
“I think Coach Ferguson teaches us really well how to play doubles. Without his help, we wouldn’t be anything. We also learned a lot playing with the No. 1s when we were No. 2s. That gives us an expectation of what we’re going to face the next year when we become No. 1s. That made us way better, while we made them better, too,” said McKay.
“Iron sharpens iron,” Murphy said. “We go at it every day in practice, competitive. Of course we want to beat the No. 1s. We want to bring that attitude every day and be competitive.”
“Their style of play together. They’re two completely different styles, so they’re very hard to prepare for, even the teams that have already played them. They give you fits because they’ll throw many, many different things at you. Technically that’s why they’re really tough,” said Ferguson. “They’ve been working for this for a very long time. I put them together as freshmen, they’ve had these goals out in front of them and they know this is the time, now, to achieve those goals. They’re going after it. The way they work hard, the way they care and how motivated they are, I know they’re going to go far. There’s no way to predict where that’s going to be once we get to Polson, but I know they’re going to be very successful when the season’s over.”
McKay and Murphy are chasing the program’s first State A doubles title since Kyle Miller and Mason Sheppard won in 2009, but when they leave the program after this weekend’s state tournament, the cupboard certainly won’t be bare.
“We have a sophomore doubles team that’s our No. 2 doubles team right now that I put together last year from the start. I’m expecting to keep them together for four years,” said Ferguson. “Kennedy and Trey have played them together a lot in practice, they’ve played together in their free time. I know they’re helping them. I’ve heard them in practice talk to (Reese Bulkley and Jake Huston) about certain things. They’re passing it on and doing exactly what was done to them and many kids before them. That’s great. That’s one of the things I’m most proud of my program for, the kids take care of each other, teach each other and help one another. The doubles situation is in good hands in the future I feel like.”
“Reese Bulkley and Jake Huston will be the No. 1s next year. We try to teach them a lot, we try to give them a heads up. They’re young, they’re only sophomores, but we help them out as much as we can,” said McKay.
But can they live up to the expectations set before them?
“Oh yeah, sure. They can,” assured Murphy.
Murphy and McKay earned the No. 1 seed from the Central A. The duo opens the weekend’s State A tennis tournament against Logan Harrington and Noah McGee of Butte Central.