Beavs find sweet success in Bitterroot

M.P. Regan
Wednesday, May 4, 2022

With court locations spread through multiple towns in the valley with varying weather conditions—and different portions of the Dillon Beavers roster competing at each—the annual Bitterroot Invitational serves as the Montana high school tennis equivalent of a three-ring circus.

The 2022 version on Saturday offered plenty of thrills and wins for the Beavers.

The local girls trapeezed over the top competition, with their no. 1 and no. 2 seeds winning all eight of their matches in Corvallis against their counterparts from six different schools—Whitefish, Darby, East Helena, Libby, Loyola Sacred Heart, St. Ignatius and Columbia Falls.

“We got some good performances. The competition was tough there. Loyola had an excellent team for a B squad,” said BCHS Head Coach Jeff Koslosky of the Missoula-based school that sent players south for the tourney.

Dillon’s top girls singles player, Emma Mitchell, led the way, sweeping through the competition on Saturday in Corvallis.

“Emma played three matches, and won them all. It’s tough playing as the no. 1 singles seed. You don’t get much room for error in that slot,” said Koslosky of a status that destines a player to take on some of the top singles competitors in the state almost every week.

“She stuck with it to the very end and was able to pull off wins in all three of those matches,” added Koslosky of Mitchell, who this season rose to the top singles spots for the Dillon girls team and helped the Beavs take a 5-2 team win over Hamilton’s top girls singles player the week before on the courts across from Dillon Middle School.

BCHS’s top girls doubles team of Rachel Fluckiger & Eden Kindberg recovered from their first loss of 2022 in that same April 23 home meet to a duo from Hamilton to take both of their matches in the Bitterroot last weekend.

A win on Saturday by the Beaver boys top doubles team of Marcus Sandall & Daniel Leonardson helped Dillon take three of five matches in rainshortened play in Hamilton on Saturday

“We saw really good play from Kyle Hawley, said Koslosky of his no. 2 boys singles player.”

“Kyle just relied on his experience and played really levelheaded tennis,” added Koslosky of Hawley, who earned singles triumphs over players from Stevensville and Whitefish on Saturday before foul weather ended the proceedings early in Hamilton.

“The boys had a little bit more rain in Hamilton. It seemed to rain less in the other locations. So, we persevered through all the matches and the weather in Stevensville and Corvallis,” said Koslosky, whose players took eight of 14 matches in Stevi.

Next up for the Beavs, a trip east to compete in the annual Mayfair Tournament in Billings.

“We’ll play against five different schools in Billings,” said Koslosky of the Friday–Saturday, May 6–7 gathering that will give his team a preview of some of the top players from the eastern half of Montana that they would not otherwise see until the state tourney.

“We’re using 18 courts total over two days that stay occupied from around 8:30 a.m. to dark. It’s a good way to get used to tournament play, with a bunch of matches the same day. It’s traditionally been a great tournament for us, and we’re eager to get back there,” said Kosolosky.

“We’ll see different doubles teams and different styles of play, which makes it all the better to prepare us for the rest of the season. We’ve had a good season up to this point,” said Kosolsky, whose players are honing their games for the two big season-ending competitions—the Western A Divisional tourney May 19–21 in Butte and State A tourney May 26–28 in Bozeman.

“Now, the trick will be to keep going and peak for the divisionals and state tournament.”