GREAT FALLS — There’s a lot to take notice of with this years’ tennis program at Great Falls CMR, but the main takeaway as they head into Missoula for the AA state tournament this week looking for individual and team success.
Between both the girls and boys teams, they are sending four doubles pairings and five singles players including senior Ruby Jennings to state, who goes in as the number two seed from the northern division. She’s seen firsthand the growth of the program her last four years
“As a freshman, I’ve gotten to see my coaches in their first year build and have new players come in each year to see the coaches build new techniques and us improving and it’s really exciting to see it all pay off especially in my senior year.”
As Jennings mentioned, she wasn’t the only one starting her tennis journey at Great Falls CMR four years ago. Boys coach Byron Boyd and girls coach Valerie Scheevel began their tenure as the Rustlers new coaching duo when Jennings was a freshman but it wasn’t their first time walking the tennis courts at the school.
They both were Great Falls CMR standouts. They both went to play at Montana State University. They each have spent 25-plus years as teaching professionals and they both were hired in tandem to coach the tennis teams together. Now they’re seeing the fruits of their labor and experience pay off with how well their teams have performed thus far.
“Yeah it feels really good for Byron and I to see our effort and all the kids efforts over the last four years,” Scheevel said. “They’ve worked really hard.”
“It’s been great because I trust her completely and we have the exact same philosophy,” Boyd added. “We basically had the same coaches growing up so we have the same idea of what Rustler tennis should be.”
For both teams, there’s a senior class that helped lead the boys to an undefeated regular season and the girls to a 15-1 record to pair with their divisional success.
A closer glance at the roster though reveals two interesting members that added great skill and cultural diversity: Munich, Germany foreign exchange student Lia Stuelpner and Luca Alvisi from Italy. Both will be at state competing in singles but for Alvisi his one year as a Rustler allowed for him to be competitive in athletics but more importantly make new friends.
“Yeah this team is a very good team. I’m really happy I’ve made really good friends on this team. I think everyone is really close to each other.”
But for Alvisi and the goal for him and the team is to win and cement their place in the Rustler Hall of Fame.
Both the boys and girls teams compete May 26-28 in Missoula.