April 27, 2012
Montana men's tennis coach Kris Nord and women's tennis coach Steve Ascher swept the 2012 Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year awards the league office announced Friday morning. It marks the first time since 1997 that a league school other than Sacramento State swept both awards.
Nord is the first Montana men's tennis coach to win coach of the year honors. Ascher is the second Griz women's coach. Nord, who previously coached both programs, was the Mountain West Conference women's coach of the year in 1986.
Nord, who just finished his 30th year at Montana, was recognized by his coaching peers after leading the Grizzlies to their first-ever conference title. Picked second in the preseason coaches' poll but without a single first-place vote, Montana went a perfect 8-0 in its league matches, 10-0 counting early-season nonconference victories over Idaho State and Montana State.
The key to Montana's regular-season title was a come-from-behind 4-3 victory over preseason favorite Sacramento State on April 8. The Grizzlies, who lost to the Hornets in the Big Sky tournament championship match last weekend, won their other seven Big Sky matches by 5-2 scores or better.
"First of all I'm just happy for the program as a whole and happy for Steve," Nord said. "And I'm happy for my guys, because this is really a team award.
"Obviously our conference record stands out, but we also had some great nonconference wins. We did not have a bad loss in our entire body of work this spring."
Ascher just completed his fourth season at Montana and took the Grizzlies one step closer to his goal of turning his team into Big Sky Conference champions.
Montana finished third in the regular-season standings for the third straight year, but Ascher coached the Grizzlies to the Big Sky tournament championship match for the first time in program history with a victory over Northern Arizona in last weekend's Big Sky tournament semifinals.
Montana dropped league matches to regular-season and tournament champion Sacramento State, 5-2, and second-place Northern Arizona, 4-3, and beat the other six teams in the league by an aggregate score of 39-3 mainly using a six-player singles lineup that included five underclassmen.
Ascher coached junior Heather Davidson and freshman Laurence Pelchat to first-team All-Big Sky honors. Freshman Precious Gbadamosi earned second-team and sophomore Maddy Murray honorable-mention honors.
When asked what he believed his fellow Big Sky coaches saw in his team that led to Friday's announcement, Ascher said, "I think and hope that what sticks out in other coaches' minds is that our players compete hard in every match and play smart tennis, and that that combination gives us a shot to win every match we play."
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