Kalen Christiaens

Loyola Sacred Heart's Kalen Christiaens, the defending Class B-C state singles champion, reached his third straight state final on Friday in Great Falls.

Missoulian

Dominant is the best way to describe the Loyola Sacred Heart boys' tennis team this week at the State B-C meet in Great Falls.

The Rams are well on their way to a third straight team title thanks in large part to a surging senior quartet. Included in that group are Stephen Sellman and Matt Roberts, who earned a doubles championship Friday, and singles players Kalen Christiaens and Carson Christian, who will battle one another in the title match Saturday.

"These guys are just laying it on the line," said Loyola coach Jess Munro, whose team has racked up 63 points, 34 more than second-place Bigfork. "I think they all just finally realized how good they are and everything has just clicked. They've found an extra gear at state."

Twice Sellman and Roberts dug down for something extra in their title match, reaping the benefits in a 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 victory over Isaac Martel and Adam Jordt of Bigfork. The Rams duo trailed 2-4 in the opening set before reeling off four straight games.

"I talked to them at the fence and they said, 'Don’t worry Coach, we got this,'" Munro said. "Then third set they really played picture perfect.

"All I asked them was to get that energy and focus they had in the first set and they did that."

For Sellman it marked a second state doubles title in as many years. Last May he took top honors with Teddy Muth, who graduated.

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Christiaens punched his ticket into the state singles final for the third straight year and will go for his second straight title at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. He and Christian guaranteed the Rams will sweep singles and doubles gold for the second straight year.

"It's fun watching everyone on the team play their best tennis of the year right now," Christiaens said.

Christian, who like Sellman was a role player for the Loyola basketball team this winter, has been the most pleasant surprise for the Rams in Great Falls. Two weeks ago he stumbled against Fisher Shima of Ronan in the Loyola Invitational semifinal round. He hasn't lost since and his state success has created an oddity, with teammates vying for top honors.

"I don’t remember it ever happening but I could be wrong," said Munro, who has coached Montana prep tennis for 11 years. "They hit against each other all time."

Christian will have his hands full with Christiaens, who hasn't lost to a B-C opponent all season.

"Carson is real steady," Munro said. "With him you can never tell emotionally if he’s up or down. He's got a real steady confidence."

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Christiaens will call on his surplus of championship experience Saturday. His all-court game and poise are a tough combination.

"This definitely makes all the work in the summer worth it," he said. "I'm playing my game right now, not letting anyone get in my head, not getting too rattled, trying to come in when I can.

"But I'm also excited for Carson making the final. He's really quick and it’s so hard to get a ball by him. It’s going to be interesting for sure."

Loyola has also benefited from the strong singles play of Ian Descamps, who lost to Christian in the semifinals, and the doubles team of Harry Muth and Alex Nagata, which piled up three consolation wins.

In the girls' meet, Chinook looks like a good bet to nab a repeat team title with 42 points. Cut Bank is in second place with 23.

The singles final will pit defending champion Mariah Swank of Chinook against Luisa Locker of Lone Peak. In doubles, Lauren Harshman and Cortney Gunderson of Chinook will face Alex Craft and Duana Gobert of Cut Bank, who took third place last season.

Bigfork's Brooke Bonner and Alauna Weilacher had a good day with a pair of wins in consolation play before bowing out with a loss to a team from Baker.

 

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