MISSOULA — Jake Bellamah's music of choice before big tennis matches is what some adults might politely describe as an acquired taste.
Sort of like liverwurst — not for everyone but highly enticing to some.
"I know it's kind of funny, but I listen to rap and stuff like that," the Loyola Sacred Heart tennis standout said after his debut win in the State B-C tourney Wednesday at the Peak Racquet Club. "I always think it's funny just teenage boys talking about rap and listening to rap. I like 21 Savage."
Whatever it is Bellamah favors, he'd be well-advised to stick with it this week. He has yet to drop a match all season and looks like a good bet to go deep in the boys singles bracket the next two days.
That is, if he can stay strong under pressure and occasionally endure windy, rainy conditions like those that lingered Wednesday afternoon. They didn't seem to bother Bellamah a bit as he steamrolled Jakob Paulson of Cut Bank in the round of 16, 6-1, 6-1.
"I am kind of nervous because I dropped my first set this year to Riley Reimer of Valley Christian and that kind of threw me off a little," he confided. "I've been trying to keep my head up and hype myself up and know that I can do it if I work hard."
For the record, that set loss to Reimer was the only one of the season for Bellamah. It's not surprising since he's so serious about his tennis year around, working with Peak director of tennis Scott Potter and Peak pro Devon Sikora, who also serves as an assistant coach for Loyola.
"For me it's staying mentally tough and making sure I'm not getting lazy or not moving my feet," he said. "Scott and my other coaches generally tell me to work on things in matches, whether it's a kick serve or placement of the ball.
"Tennis has been such a large part of my life. My parents inspire me to work hard and keep going. I want to play college tennis, so that also motivates me."
Like all of his Loyola teammates, there's a comfort zone for Bellamah that comes with playing the state meet on the Peak courts. The Rams and Breakers practice there all spring.
But there's still that tension involved with chasing something so coveted as a state title, especially with so many friends and family watching.
"I do feel confident and happy we're playing here," said Bellamah, who may also have a match or two at Fort Missoula this week since those courts are being used.
The rain forced some matches indoors Wednesday and there's an 80 percent chance of rain Thursday. That may force more of the tournament indoors, with five courts available at the Peak.
Regardless of where the meet is contested, Valley Christian's Taylor Munoz is thankful for the opportunity.
"This is my first time making it to state, so it's super cool that it's here and at home," said the senior, who won her opening singles match Wednesday morning at Fort Missoula. "It's cool that I get to have all my friends and family come and support me.
"Having as many supporters as I can is a lot of fun. It's a great experience. It's fun to see all the talent from across the state. I'm excited to play people I've never played before and see how it goes. My goal this year was to make it to state since we didn't have a season last year."
The tournament will conclude Friday in Missoula.
Bill Speltz is Missoulian Sports Editor and has served as Sunday columnist the past 15 years. Do you have a story idea? Email Bill at email@example.com.