Griz claim first-ever Big Sky title with 6-1 win over EWU


April 14, 2012

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In his 30 years as the coach of the Montana men's tennis team Kris Nord had never won a regular-season Big Sky title. That changed Saturday afternoon when the Griz defeated Eastern Washington 6-1 to move to 7-0 in conference matches and claim at least a share of the title.

The Griz also locked up the top seed for next week's Big Sky tournament.

"We've been close a couple times, but we knocked down the door today," Nord said. "It feels pretty weird, but I'm enjoying it."

The Grizzlies' prospects didn't look good at the beginning of the doubles matches. At one point the No. 1 team was down 6-1, No. 2 was down 6-1 and No. 3 was down 6-2.

"I was in shock a half an hour into the doubles matches because we were being absolutely dominated," Nord said.

From that point the No. 1 team of Mikolaj Caruk and Andrew Warren and the No. 2 team of Michael Facey and Ethan Vaughnturned their matches around and scored wins.

Caruk and Warren won 9-8 (7-1), and Facey and Vaughn won 9-7.

"To have one and two turn it around was huge momentum-wise, and we carried that into singles," Nord said. "These guys hate to lose and it really shows. It was a remarkable run."

Caruk made quick work of his singles opponent, Ilija Cuic, in the No. 2 position, winning the match 6-1, 6-0. The win gave the Griz a 2-0 lead with five matches still to play.

"It was enormous to get another point on the board," Nord said. "It put tremendous pressure on the EWU players in the rest of the matches."

Facey also won his match at No. 4 with Chad Henninger in straight sets 6-4, 6-3 to give the Griz a 3-0 lead.

Shortly thereafter Carl Kuschke won at No. 1 to give the Grizzlies a 4-0 lead and clinch the win and the Big Sky title.

"It was fitting to have Carl clinch the match and the title for us," Nord said. "He has been a warrior for us these last four years. He deserved that."

The Eagles got their only point when Mario Navarro defeated Warren at No. 3, 6-4, 7-5.

The final two matches went to three sets.

At No. 6 reigning Big Sky player of the week Andreas Luczak won his match 6-4, 4-6, 10-8.

After a 6-2 loss in the first set Vaughn won the second set in a tiebreaker setting up the superbreaker third set. Vaughn outlasted Julian Sanchez 10-5 to get the win at No. 5.

The Grizzlies will host Montana State tomorrow at 2 p.m. at The Peak Racquet Club. The Griz take the rivalry as seriously as the football or basketball teams. Tonight though Nord will enjoy the historic victory.

"I'm going to enjoy this right now," he said. "Tomorrow we have MSU coming in, but right now we are the regular-season champs, so I am going to let that soak in a little."


Montana 6, Eastern Washington 1

Singles competition

1. Kuschke, Carl (UM) def. RUSSELL, James (EWU) 6-2, 6-2
2. Caruk, Mikolaj (UM) def. CUIC, Ilija (EWU) 6-1, 6-0
3. NAVARRO, Mario (EWU) def. Warren, Andrew (UM) 6-4, 7-5
4. Facey, Michael (UM) def. HENNINGER, Chad (EWU) 6-4, 6-3
5. Vaughn, Ethan (UM) def. SANCHEZ, Julian (EWU) 2-6, 7-6 (7-5), 10-5
6. Luczak, Andreas (UM) def. KOETJE, Kyle (EWU) 6-4, 4-6, 10-8

Doubles competition

1. CARUK, Mikolaj/WARREN, Andrew (UM) def. RUSSELL, James/KOETJE, Kyle (EWU) 9-8 (7-1)
2. FACEY, Michael/VAUGHN, Ethan (UM) def. SANCHEZ, Julian/HENNINGER, Chad (EWU) 9-7
3. NAVARRO, Mario/CUIC, Ilija (EWU) def. KUSCHKE, Carl/DEMAROIS, Ben (UM) 8-4

Match Notes:

Eastern Washington 12-8, 6-2 BSC
Montana 14-4, 7-0 BSC
Order of finish: Doubles (3,2,1); Singles (2,4,1,3,6,5)



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