Polson High School girls tennis coach Robert Hislop knows he has one of the top-tier teams in Montana High School Association Class A, and his team has an MHSA Class A championship ring to validate it.
Hislop knows that in the ever-changing world of tennis in which one transfer can make a significant impact on the team or lineup and can change the team dynamics, his young team with only one senior, defending MHSA champion Shea McGuinness, has a chance to not only repeat but build even more on their long-standing tradition.
Hislop knows his team is young, and during the season, they are still like many young teams, going to experience growing pains.
“The girls are as modest as they are talented,” Hislop said. “The group would carry on as super confident because they are so young and won it last year. Shea (our only senior) is a super solid kid. We know you may beat us because you are more talented than us, but you aren’t going to outwork us.”
Though Hislop’s team is the defending MHSA Class A champion, they know they still have to continue to prove themselves moving forward.
“They are very conscious of their status and(our coaching staff has done an excellent job of having fun in the process and not making our players say ‘Oh God, look what we did last year,’” Hislop said.
With teams such as Whitefish, who is one of the favorites to win an MHSA Class A state tennis title this year, it has kept the young Lady Pirates hungry to try to excel.
“There are two other top teams in our conference and you can hide your age if you are super mature, but it is pretty hard to hide your age when you have other teams playing to their level,” Hislop said.
Young Pirates continue to improve
Over the last couple of years, the Polson Pirates have lost a cumulative total of nine MHSA All-State and All-Conference players to graduation.
This hasn’t stopped a young Pirates team from rebuilding to continue it’s long-standing tradition of excellence.
The Pirates’ No. 1 player Joe McDonald, who has had a successful transition from playing doubles to singles this year, continued to showcase improvement with a three-set victory over Libby High School’s No. 1 singles player.
“He keeps progressing and understand that he still isn’t akin to playing singles matches,” Hislop said. “He keeps growing, and learning, and now he is trying to play his style of game to any opponent,rather than have another opponent dictate to him what he does.”
The Pirates, who captured back-to-back victories against Libby and Stevi, are still working on cultivating the mental aspect of the game.
“Some people say tennis is 70-percent mental and 30-percent athletic,” Hislop said. “If you don’t believe in what you are doing, you are going to struggle no matter who you are playing against. We work on teaching them when they are playing kids that aren’t as good as them, to maintain their ability and continue to play at their level. Confidence is a huge part of varsity tennis. In varsity tennis, you experience a lot of different things that can happen, and it’s a matter of getting on the court, playing and doing well.”