POLSON – Anyone who has ever played high school doubles knows the endeavor is decidedly unpredictable.
Sometimes the best team doesn’t win. Often Montana’s spring weather serves as a tennis neutralizer.
That’s what makes Bridger Walczynski’s accomplishments so impressive. The Corvallis senior moved to the brink of his fourth straight State A doubles championship Friday, teaming with DJ Pekoc to reach Saturday’s final with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Logan Blades and Sean Janni of Whitefish.
The state meet was slated to finish Friday but a pair of storms caused a four-hour delay. Consequently, the finals and place matches will be played starting at 8 a.m. Saturday.
Walczynski, who has competed with three different partners in four years, will shoot for a rare high school sweep against Billings Central’s John Knisely and Harrison Fagg. He and Pekoc enter the match with an edge in experience, having teamed for a state title last season.
Walczynski made no bones about the significance, at least in his mind, of winning his fourth straight title.
“It would be the greatest thing I think could ever happen to me in high school,” he said.
Corvallis coach Chris Maul-Smith used one word to describe his top doubles team: Dominating.
“It’s just an amazing pair to watch,” he said. “A ball goes past one of them and you think it’s a done deal and they cross and cover for each other. It’s fun to watch.”
Polson’s doubles team of Layne Zimmerman and Hayden Congdon didn’t fare as well in their semifinal. They fell victim to Knisely and Fagg in a heartbreaker, 6-1, 7-6 (1).
The Pirates, who are tied with Billings Central atop the boys’ team standings with 17 points apiece, did have a winner in the semifinal round. Dylan McCrumb defeated Livingston’s Aidan Goodman, 6-3, 6-4, to earn a spot in the final where he will face defending champion Dillon Meyer of the Rams, who swept Polson’s Brady Hislop, 6-1, 6-0.
Corvallis also has a doubles team in the girls’ championship round. Seniors Sydnee Madruga and Megan Lengyel punched their ticket with a win over Glendive’s Nichole Burman and Ellen Carbajal, 6-3, 7-5.
“They’re just so focused,” Blue Devils coach Mike Fehr said of his undefeated No. 1 doubles duo. “Everything they’ve done here at state is just with purpose. They’re playing their hearts out.”
Corvallis sophomore Laramie McHugh didn’t fare as well in her singles semifinal. Two-time state champion Morgan Opp of Glendive defeated her in straight sets, 6-0, 6-2. Opp, a senior, will play Barclay Fagg of Billings Central in the title match.
“She’s so steady and she plays such a smart game,” Glendive coach Rich Lindgren said of Opp, who hasn’t lost since her sophomore year. “She has picked it up a notch. Her ground strokes are stronger and she’s developed a nice net game as well.”
McHugh bounced back to win a three-set thriller in consolation action. But the Blue Devils’ chances of earning their first team trophy took a hit Friday.
“Mathematically we’re still in it,” Fehr noted. “We need to have a good (Saturday) and maybe a little help. It all has to fall into place.”
Glendive established itself as the frontrunner. The Red Devils hold a 14-13 lead over second-place Corvallis.
“Really it’s probably a three-team race,” said Lindgren, referring to Glendive, Corvallis and Billings Central. “It’s tight and we’ll have to wait until the final day to find out. We’re hopeful we’ll have a good day.”