Five Griz honored by Big Sky Conference
May 2, 2013
To the victor may belong the spoils, but in this case a runner-up finish brings with it some pretty nice plunder as well.
The Montana women's tennis team, second to Sacramento State in both the regular season and at last weekend's Big Sky Conference tournament, had five players honored by the Big Sky Thursday when the league announced its 2013 all-conference teams.
Senior Heather Davidson (Rocklin, Calif.) and sophomore Precious Gbadamosi (Houston, Texas) were named first-team, sophomore Sasha Carter (Bainbridge Island, Wash.) second team and sophomores Haley Driver (Scottsdale, Ariz.) and Laurence Pelchat (Repentigny, Quebec) honorable mention.
With juniors Ashley Mackey and Maddy Murray playing only singles, the former, and doubles, the latter, for most of the spring season, that means all five of fifth-year coach Steve Ascher's players who competed in both singles and doubles were recognized.
Montana finished the season 15-8 and went 9-1 in Big Sky matches. The Grizzlies defeated Northern Arizona in last weekend's tournament semifinals to extend their winning streak to seven before falling to the Hornets in the tournament championship match for the second straight season.
"It's a testament to the whole team and the quality of our depth that we had that many players recognized by the coaches in the conference," Ascher said. "I think they understood the quality of the season we put together and knew that wasn't the result of just one or two players."
Montana actually had more players honored than Sac State, which placed three on the first team and had one honorable-mention selection. One of the Hornets' first-teamers was senior Rebeca Delgado, the league MVP and the only player on the eight-member first team to be a unanimous pick.
Delgado finished her career as a four-time first-team selection. She and Davidson, who earned her third first-team nod, were the only two seniors on the first team, which was made up of five underclassmen.
Davidson earned first-team honors as a freshman, junior and senior and joins Jessica Redding (1998-2001) as Montana's only three-time first-team all-conference selections.
"And I actually thought her sophomore year was one of Heather's best years," Ascher said. "That just shows the level of consistency she had from the time she entered the program until the time she left."
Davidson's consistency resulted in 73 singles victories over her four years and 73 doubles wins. Three times she reached 20 wins in singles; she won 41 doubles matches as a junior and senior.
"Heather brought a competitive drive to the team, but she balanced that by being psychologically and emotionally in control when she was in the moment, and a lot of these awards have a sportsmanship element to them," Ascher said.
"I think the coaches recognized the way we compete as a team, and a lot of that began with Heather."
Though she played in the bottom half of the lineup, Gbadamosi, who was a second-team selection as a freshman, was hard for the Big Sky coaches to ignore and has been since she joined the program.
The lefthander has yet to lose a regular-season or tournament singles match to a Big Sky opponent, now 20-0 through her first two seasons. She is 15-5 in doubles.
Gbadamosi was 18-3 in singles during the spring dual season, 16-6 in doubles. After opening the spring 2-3, Gbadamosi won 16 straight singles matches to finish her sophomore campaign.
"For Precious to go 18-3 is impressive considering the strength of schedule we played this year," Ascher said. "And to be unbeaten over her career in Big Sky matches is obviously special as well.
"Precious is playing at a high level and continues to grow as a player and person."
Carter earned All-Big Sky honors for the first time despite having a two-year record nearly as impressive as Gbadamosi's. Carter is 16-2 in singles in regular-season Big Sky matches, 14-4 in doubles.
Carter had the team's strongest finish to the season. She won her final six singles matches, and that included a sound 6-2, 6-3 victory over Sac State freshman Olivia Boija in Sunday's Big Sky tournament championship match. Boija was one of the Hornets' three first-team selections.
"Sasha has started to play at a level I haven't seen before," Ascher said. "She is really thinking through the moment, and that's brought a completeness and another level of maturity to her game.
"It's been really fun to watch that level of tennis jump out of her and watch how she has handled herself."
Pelchat, first team a year ago, joined Driver as Montana's honorable-mention selections, meaning at least one coach in the Big Sky considered them worthy of a first- or second-team vote.
Pelchat went 15-8 in singles over the course of the spring season, 8-2 in Big Sky matches to improve her career mark to 13-4. She also went 14-9 in doubles this spring, all at No. 1 with Davidson.
Driver, who just completed her first season with the Grizzlies after transferring from Oregon, went 14-7 in singles playing at Nos. 2 and 3. She had a 7-2 mark in Big Sky matches.
Driver was first paired up with Gbadamosi at No. 3 doubles back in late February, and the duo promptly won 8-3 at Northern Colorado. They would go on to win their first 12 matches together and finished the spring 14-2.
2013 All-Big Sky Conference Women's Tennis Team
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