Following a state-clinching victory at the recent Divisional Tournament, Three Forks High School senior tennis player Kinzee Howey said she and doubles partner Katie Hayder had tears right away following the match.
There emotions were certainly understandable with the duo becoming the first two to qualify in program history for the state tournament last week in Missoula.
Howey said making it to state was amazing, and they set a good goal for all the girls to know they can make it that far.
"We knew we just did something big and made our goal of qualifying for state," she said.
Not only did the dynamic duo of Howey and Hayder set a high bar for the program, but they also had an incredible run at state that included three victories in Missoula.
The pair finished the state tournament 3-2, and according to Head Coach, Janna Lauver played some of the best games and matches of their career.
"They (Howey/Hayder) were completely in tune with each other, playing teams they had not met before and really perfecting their long games. In the end, they finished in the Top 12 State Doubles and played some of their best tennis of the year. We are so proud of them," she said.
Howey and Hayder opened the tournament at the outdoors court at Fort Missoula with a 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 win over the Grahman/Barkey team from Baker.
"After learning their opponents' style of play, our team was able to learn and change our look to get the winning matches," Lauver said.
In their second match of the first day, Howey and Hayder fell 3-6, 2-6 to Rosenbaum/Wilson of Fairfield.
"Facing Fairfield's #1 doubles for the first time was a challenge for our doubles team. They had an amazing long match with lots of long volley games but just couldn't take them down this year," Lauver said.
With action inside for the second day at Missoula's Peak Racquet Club, Howey and Hayder opened with a decisive 6-3, 6-2 win over Morigeau/Front of St. Ignatius/Mission.
"Another team with a different style of play, Howey and Hayder really synced up and were able to get some great angle shots from the net to win. Both girls had amazing serves this match," Lauver said.
In their second match of the day, Howey and Hayder won a hard-fought 6-2 7-6 (9-7 tiebreaker)) win over Bird/Collins of Broadwater County High School. After playing another doubles team from Broadwater all year, Lauver said this was their first matchup against the number two team from the Lady Bulldogs.
"Our team knew what they need to do and how to play to get the job done, and they showed incredible patience and skill on the court," Lauver said.
In their final matchup of state, Howey and Hayder fell 6-7 (4-7), 4-6 to Viellex/Wang of Fort Benton
Howey Hayder lost Vielleux/Wang (Fort Benton) 6-7 (loss tiebreak 4-7), 4-6.
In the second match of the season between the teams, Lauver said the Three Forks duo came out and laid it all out on the court.
"We had so many long volleys and rally back points. There were incredible serves from both girls, net shots and recovery points. Both girls hit the wall/dividers recovering long high bounce returns. Despite a lot of unforced errors, what they accomplished that day was some really smart tennis against great opponents. We are so proud," she said.
Howey added getting three wins at state meant a lot.
"We knew right away that we were meant to be there and could compete against other teams we hadn't seen before. We knew we had to work even harder because everyone at state is very good. We battled back after the first loss and took each match one at a time," she said. "Our final game was hard to end on as we had played them earlier on the year and wanted that win. I am very thankful to be on this tennis team."