MISSOULA – Montana men’s tennis keeps climbing up the Big Sky Conference standings. The KPAX Athlete of the Week is doing a lot of the heavy lifting. The league just named Yannick Schmidl player of the week for a second time this season.
The senior from Germany earned the honor by going six for six on the court, sweeping singles and doubles matches versus Idaho, Northern Colorado and Portland State. Schmidl beat a three-time All-Big Sky pick (standout Mark Kovacs) versus the Vandals, and a former Big Sky MVP, Nathan Boniel of the Vikings, both in straight sets. He holds the best winning percentage in the conference in singles (11-3) and doubles (7-0) play.
Schmidl has always played well in four years at Montana. But his coach feels some friendly competition pushed him to a different level this season.
“Victor Casadevall had the best Fall in Grizzly tennis history,” explained coach Jason Brown. “They happen to be roommates. I think Yannick didn’t want to be the second best tennis player in his house. And it might have fired him up a little bit.”
“I’m just hitting the ball really clean. I’m serving it really good,” explained Schmidl. “I adjusted some little issues I had in my game. I think it’s a really round game overall right now. I think I just improved with the team here. Everybody is playing great.”
“Sometimes you have leaders on a team and maybe they’re not the best player, or they’re middle of the pack, and it’s harder,” added Brown. “But when he’s been the best player and sort of demands excellence out of everyone, it’s made my job so easy.”
Schmidl admitted he can’t wait for this week’s matches. Not only does Montana host rival Montana State on Friday afternoon. But his parents will come from Germany to watch Schmidl play as a Grizzly for only the second time.
The Grizzlies will host the Bobcats at 2:00 Friday afternoon on the UM campus. Montana wraps up the regular season versus Eastern Washington at 2:00 Sunday afternoon.
Montana is 7-2 in conference play, trailing only 9-1 Idaho and 8-2 Northern Arizona in the Big Sky standings. The top six teams will battle for the conference tournament title April 26-28 in Phoenix.