(Editor’s Note: Montana State sports information release)
BOZEMAN — Sunday was an afternoon of adjustments for Montana State senior Rok Sitar and for his Bobcat men’s tennis teammates. Less than two hours after learning that top singles player Alex Flink would miss MSU’s Big Sky match against Northern Colorado with illness, Sitar earned a 7-5, 6-3 win at No. 1 singles to clinch Montana State’s 5-2 win at the Bobcat Outdoor Tennis Courts in Bozeman.
“We were supposed to meet at one (o’clock), and we literally found out at 12:30 that (Flink) wasn’t going to play,” Sitar said. “He tried to get better, but he was just too sick.”
Sitar said that while playing at the top ladder spot wasn’t a major adjustment, the opponent and the playing conditions were. “We are all, one through five, right there in terms of tennis level,” he said. “It’s not who you play, it’s how you play. But this was our first match outside, we didn’t even have one practice outside, so we all had to adjust to the wind, to playing outside.”
Sitar’s win over Northern Colorado’s Connor Finerty clinched MSU’s victory, but before and after that decisive point of the match there was plenty of excitement. Senior Adrian Torrico earned what Bobcat coach Jared Burnham called “a very gutsy” 4-6, 6-4, 12-10 win to put the lid on the Bobcat victory. MSU’s first singles win came from a surprising source. Sophomore Max Petrak earned a 6-2, 6-2 win over Cassell King at No. 6 singles, playing instead of Flink, and he also played an important role in the Cats earning the doubles point. Petrak and Sitar cruised to an easy 6-1 win at No. 1 doubles.
“He was great today,” Burnham said of Petrak. “He wins at No. 1 doubles, he wins at singles, he was huge. He just went out and played, didn’t think too much, and played very well.”
Burnham likes his team’s competitive fire on Sunday, and said “not thinking too much” was a factor up and down the lineup. “Playing outside can be a factor, but you can’t think about it,” he said. “You can’t let it get to you. And I thought for the most part we handled that well today. We fought hard.”
Sitar’s win took some adjusting, the native of Slovenia said. “Usually I have a game plan and it doesn’t matter who I play, I have to follow it,” he said. “I had to adjust a little bit today, being more aggressive, especially getting to the net and finishing there.”
Sitar’s ability to break serve was crucial, Burnham said. “He fought hard, and he broke serve the entire second set.”
Montana State raised its record to 5-12 overall, 4-5 in Big Sky play with the win. Northern Colorado falls to 10-12 overall, 1-9 in the league. The Bobcats finish the season with the annual Cat-Griz showdown in Missoula on Friday, then host Eastern Washington on Saturday.
Montana State 5, Northern Colorado 2
1. SITAR, Rok (MSU) def. FINERTY, Connor (UNC) 7-5, 6-3
2. PARLKLO, Kasper (MSU) def. PEASE, Kyle (UNC) 7-6, 7-6
3. TORRICO, Adrian (MSU) def. KRITZINGER, Michael (UNC) 4-6, 6-4, 12-10
4. WADE, Nick (UNC) def. ESPINOZA, Joaquin (MSU) 7-6, 2-5, 99-0
5. EXSTED, Alex (UNC) def. CEOLIN, Mateus (MSU) 6-2, 5-7, 6-1
6. PETRAK, Max (MSU) def. KING, Cassell (UNC) 6-2, 6-2
1. SITAR, Rok/PETRAK, Max (MSU) def. FINERTY, Connor/KING, Cassell (UNC) 6-1
2. TORRICO, Adrian/PARLKLO, Kasper (MSU) def. PEASE, Kyle/WADE, Nick (UNC) 7-6
3. KRITZINGER, Michael/EXSTED, Alex (UNC) def. CEOLIN, Mateus/ESPINOZA, Joaquin (MSU) 6-2
Records: Northern Colorado 10-12/1-9 Big Sky, Montana State 5-12/4-5 Big Sky
Order of finish: Doubles (1,3,2); Singles (6,2,1,5,4,3)