Griz face Hornets for Big Sky title
April 26, 2014
The Montana Grizzlies women's tennis team has the opportunity to break yet another outlandish Sacramento State record.
The Griz (16-7, 10-0) defeated Portland State 4-1 in the semifinal round on Saturday afternoon, while the Hornets breezed past Northern Arizona 4-0. For the third straight season, the Griz will play Sacramento State for the Big Sky championship.
"I feel like it was kind of inevitable that we'd end up in this position again," UM coach Steve Ascher said. "It's exactly what we want: to be able to come in here and do something special -- obviously we broke their streak -- but to have the opportunity to beat them on their home court is truly amazing."
After a quarterfinal round bye, UM defeated PSU -- the only Big Sky team it had yet to play this season. Ascher's squad improved to 10-0 in conference matches, and will have its chance to make history in more ways than one. The Griz can finish the season without a single conference loss, and end the Hornets' Big Sky title streak at 12 in-a-row.
Against the Vikings, UM began by earning the doubles point, winning at Nos. 1 and 2 doubles. Sasha Carter finished up her singles match first, defeating Abina-Elena Preda 6-3, 6-1, and shortly after, Maddy Murray won in straight sets at No. 6 singles to give the Griz a 3-0 advantage. Haley Driver lost her first conference match of 2014 at No. 1 singles to Dane Vorster, 6-4, 6-4, shortening the lead to 3-1.
"Haley played a really good match," Ascher said. "(Vorster) was red-hot. She was striking the ball hard, and hitting so close to the lines. She was super aggressive, and I think Haley did everything in her power to change things up and make her opponent work hard. It's impressive how well (Vorster) played today."
After Driver's loss, senior Ashley Mackey closed the match out with a 6-1, 6-3 decision over Alexa McDonald at No. 5 singles.
"She's starting to make a habit of earning that fourth point for us," Ascher said with a chuckle. "Sasha and Maddy and Ashley all cruised today. They got on top of their opponents and never let up. I think everybody played well, and I don't think we expended too much energy."
A few weeks ago, Mackey won a duel-clinching, four hour match at No. 5 singles, giving the Griz a 4-3 win over Sac. State, becoming the first Big Sky team to defeat the Hornets since 2001.
Entering that match, Sac. State was a ridiculous 41-1 in conference singles matches, but UM's netters won four of the six singles flights. The same day as the loss against UM, the Hornets drove to Bozeman and lost 4-3 to the Bobcats, as they had two players unhealthy that could not play.
Sac. State (10-16, 7-3) then lost 6-1 against NAU the same weekend, as the Nos. 1, 2, and 3 singles players were all injured. In other words, don't let the 7-3 conference record fool you -- they are much more dominant, when healthy, than that record shows.
All three matches Sac. State lost were at a significantly higher altitude than where the conference tourney is being played. Weather and altitude may affect how a match is played, and the way a tennis ball moves, but UM played several matches on a California road trip last month, so its a team used to playing at sea-level, too.
"We've had so many special moments this year," Ascher said. "It's time for one more."
The championship match will be played outside starting at 10 a.m. pacific standard time.
Montana 4, Portland State 1
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