April 20, 2012
For the 22nd year in a row The University of Montana women's tennis team will compete in the Big Sky Conference Championships and for the fourth year in a row they will face Northern Arizona in the first round. The No. 3 seeded Griz will face the No. 2 seeded Jacks Saturday at the Gold River Racquet Club in Sacramento, Calif., at 11 a.m. MT.
The winner of the Montana (13-7, 6-2 BSC), Northern Arizona (10-12, 7-1 BSC) match will face the winner of No. 1 Sacramento State (15-9, 8-0 BSC) and No. 4 Northern Colorado (9-8, 5-3 BSC) Sunday in the Big Sky Conference final.
"The Gold River Racquet Club is a big facility," said fourth-year coach Steve Ascher. "Both women's semifinal matches will be going on at the same time then both of the men's semifinals will be going on after that, so there is a lot of tennis going on.
"The championships have more tennis, more cheering and more energy throughout the whole environment."
Montana is riding strong momentum with a three-match win streak heading into Saturday's semifinal. The Grizzlies closed the regular season defeating Northern Colorado, Eastern Washington, and Montana State all at home. The Grizzlies only dropped two points in their past three dual meets.
Montana has built quite a history in recent years with its first round opponent. For the past three years the Grizzlies have been eliminated by the Lumberjacks and denied a shot at the conference title but every year Montana has clawed its way closer and closer to a finals appearance.
In 2009 the Jacks knocked out the Grizzlies in the quarterfinal 4-0. In 2010 Montana inched a little closer losing 4-2 in the semifinal and at last year's tournament the Griz lost a tight 4-3 contest to NAU, again, in the semifinal.
Montana lost 4-3 to NAU in Flagstaff, Ariz., in a conference match earlier this season.
"We know what they bring," said Ascher. "Having played them earlier this year the team has a good grasp of who they are, and because we lost I think our players want revenge."
In the other semifinal Sacramento State plays Northern Colorado in a rematch of the last conference dual of the regular season for both teams. Sacramento State won the contest by a score of 6-1. The Hornet's regular-season win over UNC marked their 90th conference victory in a row and Sacramento State is looking to capture its 11th consecutive conference title this weekend.
A win for Montana Saturday would put the Grizzlies in the Big Sky final for the first time in school history.
The championship match is set for Sunday, April 22 at 11 a.m. for the women and 1 p.m. for the men. The winner of the Big Sky Conference tournament receives an automatic bid to play in the NCAA Tennis Championships.
As always results and a full recap will be provided by GoGriz.com each day following competition.
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