(editor’s note: information from university release)
MISSOULA – Montana’s men’s tennis team left nothing to chance against a surging Portland State squad on Sunday, dominating the Vikings 7-0 in UM’s third match of the week at the Peak Racquet Club in Missoula.
The win puts the Griz at 7-2 in Big Sky play (10-5 overall) and earns them place in the conference championship tournament for a record 28th-straight year with two matches still to play in the regular season.
With a spot in the conference tourney locked down, and the senior-laden team playing some of its best tennis of the season, the Griz are peaking at just the right time.
“I thought this was going to be the toughest match of the weekend. I didn’t like some of the matchups, and I thought they were going to play us tougher than Idaho across the board,” said interim head coach Jason Brown. “What more can you ask for from these guys? They stepped up. It was unbelievable.”
Senior Yannick Schmidl clinched the match for the Griz with a massive straight-set win on court one over former Big Sky MVP and two-time first team all-conference player Nathan Boniel to keep Montana undefeated at home this season.
“I used the home court advantage, and he struggled a little bit in the beginning, so I was able to go up 5-0 right away,” said Schmidl. “He really stepped it up in the second set, but I was able to play better as well and pull it out.”
Schmidl’s win marks the first time a Grizzly has beaten Boniel in a singles match in his decorated three-year career at PSU. In addition to his Big Sky accolades, Boniel has also advanced to the ITA Northwest Regional quarterfinal, won the 2017 Dar Walters Classic in Boise, and won the 2016 Bulldog Classic at Gonzaga.
The No. 5 Vikings came to Missoula with a boatload of momentum after posting their first-ever win over Montana State in Bozeman on Friday, putting them on the doorstep of their first-ever Big Sky championship tournament.
The Grizzlies opened the match with a clean doubles performance as Alex Canellopoulos, and Ludvig Hallgren cruised to an easy 6-1 win on court three over PSU’s Roberts/Bukhari pair.
Schmidl and Max Korkh then clinched the point moments later with another easy UM win, this time 6-2 over PSU’s Boniel/Souza pair. The win is the seventh-straight for the pair, who remain undefeated at 7-0 since joining forces, blending Schmidl’s skill with Korkh’s size and power.
“Yannick and Max have almost made it so the number two doubles is just ours. They’re that good,” added Brown. “You can’t ask for anything better out of them.”
Alexander Canellopoulos also led the charge for UM in the singles round, dominating Sam Roberts 6-2, 6-1 for the Grizzlies’ first win in the singles round.
The junior from Greece has emerged from a recent slump in a big way, sweeping all three of his opponents this weekend after going 1-5 the month previous.
“I told him you need to start taking the lead – you’re a junior, you’ve got all the skill… and he did,” said Brown. “Since then he’s annihilated people. The biggest win of his college career was against (Idaho’s Felipe) Fonseca, and he hasn’t given anyone else a chance.”
Victor Casadevall then put the Griz up 3-0 with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Avery West on court two to put the clincher in Schmidl’s hands back on court one.
After breaking out to a quick 5-0 lead over Boniel to eventually take the first set 6-1, Schmidl was caught in a battle in the second set as the PSU star stayed neck-and-neck with the German from UM, eventually forcing a tiebreaker.
In the second-set break, Boniel jumped out to a 3-0 lead before Schmidl turned on the gas and finished strong with seven-straight points to win the match and clinch the overall dual for UM.
The Grizzlies now turn their attention to the final weekend of regular season play at home next week, hosting Montana State in a Brawl of the Wild battle on Friday, April 20, at 2 p.m. and capping the year against Eastern Washington on Sunday, April 22 at 11 a.m.
Both matches are scheduled to be played outdoors on the UM campus at the Lindsay Tennis Center, pending weather.