Missoula Big Sky's Colin Bahin got the Eagles' tennis team off to a great start Thursday against crosstown rival Missoula Sentinel, but it wasn't meant to last.
Both the Spartans girls and boys won to sweep the Eagles, 7-1 and 5-3 respectively, at Fort Missoula.
"Big Sky is a good team, with a great coaching staff," Sentinel coach Jen Keintz said. "They're fun to play and always a challenge."
Big Sky started the day off well. Both No. 1 singles players, Bahin and Tayler Johnson, cruised to easy victories. Bahin, a contender for the top seed in the Western division, beat Sentinel's Kaleb Renfro, 6-0, 6-0.
"I felt really good out there today," Bahin said. "I was able to stay focused, which at this point is the most important thing for me."
Johnson beat her opponent, Peyton Finch, 6-3, 6-2.
With the regular season winding down and divisionals just around the corner, both teams were still tinkering with their lineups.
"This is the part of the season where we really try and firm up where and what everyone's going to be playing," Big Sky coach Gordon Terpe said.
To that end, the Spartans have yet to settle on a consistent No. 1 doubles team.
Thursday, they went with the pair of Sarah Ramsbacher and Kelsey Thomas, who earned the Spartans an easy win and set the tone for the rest of the match. The duo dispatched Big Sky's Alexis Madzelonka and Anna Sloan, 6-2, 6-0.
Sentinel's No. 2 squad, Morgan Harrington and Katie Veteto, also won in straight sets, beating Shayla Johnson and Samantha Ormesher 6-1, 6-0.
Keintz said she thinks her doubles teams are the strongest in Missoula, and expects them to both make a run at a state tournament berth.
"They both beat Bozeman earlier this week, which is last year's state champs," Keintz said. "We were second behind them last year, but I'd love to take that title away from them this year."
The boys' No. 1 doubles battle was a different story.
Sentinel's Michael Hewitt and Sean Ramsbacher, who have both spent most of the season playing singles, teamed up Tuesday at the No. 1 doubles spot.
"We were looking for our best chance to get them to state," Keintz said. "They are both great players but the singles draw at divisionals is pretty stacked."
Hewitt and Ramsbacher took on Big Sky's No. 1 team of Luke Lingscheit and Jake Tabish, both of whom play on the Eagles' basketball team as well.
"(Lingscheit and Tabish) have got a lot of athleticism, they get to the ball really fast," Terpe said. "They make for some really interesting matches."
That was certainly the case Thursday.
Hewitt and Ramsbacher took the first set with relative ease, but then had to battle from a 2-5 deficit to come back and win the match in straight sets, 6-4, 7-6 (4).
"They really pushed (Hewitt and Ramsbacher) to the limit," Terpe said. "Our guys had a couple of opportunities to put it away in the second set and couldn't quite finish, but I was happy with how they played."
Big Sky's other two wins came courtesy of Rayce Compton, who defeated Jacob Treece 6-1, 6-4, and at No. 2 doubles, where Jack Hall and Sean Lindley beat Thomas Stevens and Kevin Thomas in a nailbiter. The Eagles won 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-2.
"Jack and Sean didn't play any differently in that first set than they did in the second," Terpe said. "Sentinel picked it up, and forced my guys to re-focus."
With both team's lineups in flux, Keintz said she was happy with her team's response. Big Sky's girls were playing without one of their best players, Molly Langland, which forced all of Terpe's players to play up a spot. The same was true for Sentinel's boys, following Hewitt and Ramsbacher teaming up.
"There's always room for improvement,' Keintz said. "My entire boys' lineup was playing up for this match, and I was really pleased."