Here we go again: Griz-Lumberjacks in the semifinals
April 26, 2013
The Montana women's tennis team, the No. 2 seed, will face No. 3 Northern Arizona Saturday at 3 p.m. (MT) in a semifinal match of the Big Sky Conference tournament being held at the Gold River Racquet Club in Gold River, Calif.
The Lumberjacks advanced out of Friday's quarterfinals with a 4-1 victory over No. 6 Montana State.
In the other quarterfinal match Friday, No. 5 Southern Utah defeated No. 4 Northern Colorado 4-1. The Thunderbirds will face No. 1 Sacramento State, which has won 102 straight matches against Big Sky opponents, on Saturday afternoon. The Hornets won the regular-season meeting against SUU 6-1.
Saturday's semifinal winners will play Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. (MT) in the tournament championship match.
"We have been working towards the tournament over the last few weeks, so we're excited about finally having the opportunities and the challenges that we'll face," UM coach Steve Ascher said.
"It's time to focus and be ready to compete and put as much as we have into this moment."
The big question going into Saturday's match: Which team is hotter? Northern Arizona has won 11 of its last 12, with 10 of those 11 wins coming by scores of 7-0 or 6-1 (or Friday's 4-1 result). The Lumberjacks closed the regular season by winning 32 straight doubles matches.
On the other side of the net, Montana has won six straight, with five of those victories coming against Big Sky Conference opponents. That run of success gave the Grizzlies their highest tournament seeding in over a decade.
With both teams playing at such a high level, the result of their match on April 7 becomes more and more surprising. Playing at the Peak Racquet Club in Missoula, Northern Arizona won all three doubles matches, but Montana turned it around and won all six singles matches in straight sets to win 6-1.
The Grizzlies will enter Saturday's match with the confidence that came from that result. The Lumberjacks will have payback on the mind. To be determined is which mindset wins out.
This is the fifth straight year Montana and Northern Arizona will have met in the tournament, and the results showed the progression of how the Grizzlies slowly narrowed the gap between the two programs leading up to last season's breakthrough win.
NAU won 4-0 in the No. 3-6 quarterfinal matchup in 2009. The Lumberjacks won in the semifinals as the No. 2 seed over the No. 3 Grizzlies by a 4-2 score in 2010 and 4-3 result in 2011.
Last spring Montana finally got over the hump. They lost the doubles point, but the Grizzlies got singles wins at No. 1 from Heather Davidson, No. 2 from Laurence Pelchat, No. 5 from Maddy Murray and No. 6 from Precious Gbadamosi to advance to the championship match for the first time in program history.
Davidson and Murray both won in straight sets, while Pelchat and Gbadamosi won in three sets to give Montana a 4-2 victory. The Grizzlies lost in last year's championship match to Sacramento State 4-0.
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