Griz host Bengals in final pre-tournament tune-up
April 19, 2013
The Montana women's tennis team will host Idaho State Saturday afternoon at the Peak Racquet Club in Missoula in its final regular-season match leading up to next weekend's Big Sky Conference tournament.
The Grizzlies and Bengals will begin their match around 3 p.m., or shortly after the conclusion of the Montana-Idaho State men's match at the Peak, which begins at 10 a.m.
Montana (13-7, 8-1 BSC) has already clinched the No. 2 seed for next week's six-team tournament, which will be held Friday through Sunday at the Gold River Racquet Club in Gold River, Calif.
The Grizzlies will have a bye to Saturday's semifinals and play the highest seed from among Friday's two quarterfinal winners. No. 1 seed Sacramento State will be on the other side of the semifinal bracket and play the lower-ranked quarterfinal winner.
Northern Arizona, Northern Colorado and Southern Utah have also clinched tournament spots and will be seeds 3 through 5, respectively.
Montana State, Eastern Washington and Idaho State (5-12, 2-6 BSC) are all still in the running for the No. 6 seed, which makes Saturday's match of critical importance for the Bengals. ISU needs to win at Montana on Saturday and at Montana State on Sunday to have a chance of making the tournament.
"We won't take Idaho State lightly, but that's the way we treat every match, no matter who we're playing," UM coach Steve Ascher said.
"The last two days we've had really good practices. The players know our larger focal points, but they are also really good about being in the moment and playing in the moment, so I would expect we're going to play well against Idaho State."
Saturday's match will be the final home appearance for Heather Davidson, the lone senior on this year's team. Davidson is a three-time Academic All-Big Sky Conference selection and was voted first-team All-Big Sky following her freshman and junior seasons.
Davidson, of Rocklin, Calif., enters Saturday's match with a career singles record of 72-62 and a career doubles mark of 71-50. The two-time Big Sky player of the week is 24-9 in league singles matches and 23-10 in doubles.
Davidson achieved a No. 3 Mountain Region doubles ranking with Laurence Pelchat in January 2012 and a No. 10 doubles ranking with Pelchat this past January.
"Heather is the type of player who exemplifies what we want in the program," Ascher said. "She's put a lot of time and work in, and she's made a lot of adjustments to her game.
"The offseason is when you can make substantial gains, and Heather did a good job of that. Every summer she played in a lot of tournament and worked on her game."
Davidson's first season with the Grizzlies was Ashcer's second year at Montana, and together they've seen the program rise from middle of the pack to among the Big Sky's best.
The team's win totals while Davidson has been in the program have gone from 10 to 11 to 14 to the Grizzlies' 13 so far this season, all coming while playing a progressively tougher and more demanding spring schedule.
Montana was the No. 6 seed at the Big Sky tournament in 2009. The next three seasons the Grizzlies played as the No. 3 seed. This year they will take their best seed in over a decade into the tournament.
"Saturday is going to be bittersweet, because Heather has been an integral part of the growth of this program," Ascher said.
Part of that growth has been going from a program without an indoor court in town to one that will play 10 home matches next spring at the Peak and the outdoor courts on campus at the Lindsay Tennis Center. Without an indoor facility, Montana had no home matches in 2008-09 and just one in 2009-10.
Indoor practices were held when time and space allowed in the Adams Center for the setup of a single temporary sport court.
"Heather is the last one in the program who played when the plastic courts were all we had in town and we had no home matches," Ascher said.
"She's experienced the evolution of going from where we were with our practices and being a program in the middle of the conference to where we're now one of the top programs in the Big Sky."
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