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Beagle wins divisional tennis title; seeks state gold

by SCOTT SHINDLEDECKER
The Western News | May 21, 2024 7:00 AM

Libby tennis standout Ryan Beagle is a three-time state qualifier with two state bronze medals and three Western A divisional titles.

But his goal has not changed and that’s to win a Montana state championship.

Beagle, a junior, will get another crack at the gold beginning Thursday in Kalispell at Flathead Valley Community College where the state tournament is being held this year.

Play begins Thursday with the first round and quarterfinals. The semifinals and finals will be played Friday.

Beagle is coming off his second straight divisional title last week, also at FVCC. He won a straight-set battle against Polson’s Torrin Ellis, 7-5, 6-4, in the finals.

Ellis is just one of many opponents who Libby head coach Kyle Hannah believes will pose a challenge to Beagle in his quest for a championship.

“There are six in Class A with a chance to win state, so it’s a loaded field,” Hannah said in an interview with The Western News. “But it would be nice to get one. Jackie Mee was our last individual champion in 2009.”

Mee was a standout golfer, tennis and basketball player for the Loggers before starring on the Carroll College women’s golf team. Mee placed third in state high school tennis in 2010.

Another potential opponent for Beagle is defending Class A champion Andy Purcell of Hamilton. Beagle and Purcell met earlier this season in Polson and Beagle won that match. Purcell won the Class A Southwest Divisional last week.

“Ryan’s aspirations are to play college tennis and he’s put in the work to get there,” Hannah said. “He put more time into tennis last summer and this winter, hitting in the gym.

“A lot of Ryan’s success can be attributed to him playing and hitting with Tyler Andersen,” Hannah added.

Andersen, who is this year’s valedictorian at Libby High School, didn’t reach the state tournament as he did a year ago. But Loggers assistant coach Terry Oedewaldt said that’s a testament to the depth of the field in Northwest A.

“Tyler is a better player this year than he was last year, but the field was extremely strong and deep,” Oedewaldt said. “And he was battling through a severely sprained ankle.”

In consideration of Beagle’s ability, Oedewaldt pointed to many positive attributes.

“Ryan has incredible speed and his rally tolerance wins him a lot of matches. He just doesn’t give up and his willingness to put in the extra time makes a big difference,” Oedewaldt said.

Hannah agreed, saying, “If he’s down 2-5, it doesn’t matter. He’s not giving up.”

Beagle is Libby’s only representative at state this year, but both coaches cited the improvements of many of the rest of the team, some of whom just missed qualifying for the state tournament.

Andersen was one of the Logger players who lost in the consolation semifinals where a win is needed to secure a state berth.

Andersen fell 6-2, 6-2 to Ronan’s Beau Decker. Decker, who qualified for state a year ago, finished third in the divisional this year.

In girls singles, Libby’s Marissa Hollingsworth was 1-1 in the championship bracket before winning two consolation matches. She later fell to Whitefish’s Liesel Brust, 6-0, 6-4, in the consolation semifinals.

“Marissa and Maggie Fantozzi really stepped up to take the No. 1 and 2 spots and took on a lot of players who were 1 and 2 before this season and they started winning some of those matches at the end of the season,” Oedewaldt said.

Fantozzi won a first round match before falling to eventual singles champ Lexi Oberholtzer in the quarterfinals. In the consolation round, she won two matches before falling to Whitefish’s Alivia Lusko.

In girls doubles, Libby’s No. 1 team of Ellie Andreessen and Allie Thorstenson were 2-2 and the No. 2 team of Elaina Covington and Kaitlyn Canary also reached the consolation semifinals.

“We were very close to sending a truckload of Loggers to state,” Hannah said. “We’re appreciative of our kids and fans and how well-behaved they are. They treat tennis and cheer for tennis the way it’s supposed to be.

“We also want to thank all the seniors for dedicating themselves to the team and a couple of old coaches.”