Underclassmen lead Griz at season-opening tournament

Semion Branzburg

Semion Branzburg

Sept. 30, 2013

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The Montana men's tennis team opened its 2013 fall tournament schedule last weekend at the Eastern Washington Fall Classic at Cheney, Wash. And though the Grizzlies have five seniors on their eight-man roster, it was a pair of underclassmen who had the best early showings.

Freshman Peter Mimnagh-Fleming, of Navan, Ireland, who was playing in his first collegiate competition, won the Flight 3 title, and sophomore Semion Branzburg, who played in Flight 2, advanced to the championship match before falling in three sets.

Mimnagh-Fleming and Branzburg helped Montana go 14-9 in singles at the tournament.

"There were a lot of good things in singles this weekend," UM coach Kris Nord said. "Peter won his draw and played great the whole tournament. I'm really happy where he is.

"Semion had a great tournament as well and nearly won it. He was right there. He had a tough draw all the way through, but he played well. Even in his loss he played well."

Mimnagh-Fleming defeated players from Idaho and Seattle in the round of 32 and quarterfinals, then had a walkover victory over senior teammate Eric Braun in the semifinals after Braun pulled a lat muscle in his quarterfinal victory.

In the final Mimnagh-Fleming played Idaho's Filip Fichtel, who hadn't dropped a set leading up to the championship and defeated Eastern Washington's Luke Ness 6-0, 6-0 in the quarterfinals.

Mimnagh-Fleming defeated Fichtel 6-4, 6-4.

Branzburg faced only athletes from Idaho and Gonzaga, the two strongest teams at the tournament, in his march to the Flight 2 title match, which he lost to Idaho's Andrew Zedde.

Branzburg won the first set 6-3, then lost sets two and three 6-3, 6-4.

With Mimnagh-Fleming and Branzburg expected to play toward the bottom of Montana's singles lineup, their success over the weekend points toward good things to come.

"Our strength the last couple of years has been our depth at the bottom of the lineup, and that's what shined for us at this tournament in singles," Nord said. "Our young guys played the best tennis of the crew, and that excites me."

Montana's seniors had mixed success at the tournament, which was played outside Friday and inside Saturday and Sunday.

Andrew Warren was the only senior to win an opening-round match in Flights 1 or 2, though he didn't advance beyond round two. Ethan Vaughn came back to win the Flight 1 consolation bracket, and Zach Drost won a pair of matches in the Flight 2 consolation bracket.

Milolaj Caruk lost his opening match in Flight 1, then suffered an ankle injury in his first match in the consolation bracket. The injury prevented him from completing another match or competing in doubles and will keep him out of this week's tournament at Boise State.

Eric Braun won a pair of singles matches in Flight 3 before his injury prevented him from continuing against Mimnagh-Fleming.

Freshman Alex Braun picked up his lone singles victory by downing Chris Dalton of Gonzaga in the Flight 3 consolation bracket.

Players from Gonzaga and Idaho claimed the four semifinal spots in Flight 1, and Branzburg and Mimnagh-Fleming both faced Vandals in their title matches in Flights 2 and 3.

"Idaho and Gonzaga are really good right now. They've really stepped it up," Nord said. "Gonzaga sat out its top kid, and Idaho didn't bring its top two kids, and they still won the tournament. That's how deep Idaho is.

"We have both of them on our schedule in the spring, and I think our guys realize now how good they are after watching them this weekend."

In the tournament's doubles competition, Montana went 0-3.

Vaughn and Warren, who played together 16 times last season, lost 8-3 to a team from Seattle in Flight 1. In Flight 2, the Brauns and the pairing of Branzburg and Drost, who were playing together for just the second time, lost their opening matches to teams from Montana State and Gonzaga.

The pairing of Caruk and Mimnagh-Fleming had to scratch out of Flight 1 because of Caruk's injury.

"Overall our doubles was not a plus in my mind," Nord said. "Some of our guys came out flat and some didn't even get to play. Our doubles weren't very good, so that's something we need to work on."

Montana will play at the Boise State Fall Classic Friday through Sunday.



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