(Editor’s note: University of Montana media release)
MISSOULA — Montana men’s tennis coach Jason Brown has completed his team’s 2018-19 schedule, and it’s built with one goal in mind: prepare the team to once again finish at the top of the Big Sky Conference table.
“We have the same goal every year, and that is to get prepared to compete for a Big Sky regular season championship, and even more so, ready for a conference tournament championship,” says Brown. “That’s the one goal with this schedule, and we’re not looking to do anything else.”
The schedule features four fall tournaments, a friendly blend of nonconference tune-up matches and matches against traditionally strong programs, and critical Big Sky home matches during the spring duals season.
The Grizzlies will open the year with a pair of tournaments hosted by fellow Big Sky schools Eastern Washington and Weber State on the weekends of Sept. 21-23 and 28-30, respectively.
Brown will then ramp up the competition level at the Dar Walters Invite at Boise State (Oct. 5-7), a strong tournament that features some of the West’s best, and often features visiting teams from around the country.
The Griz will cap the fall tournament season in Spokane at Gonzaga’s Bulldog Classic, another event featuring some of the best in the Northwest.
Following the graduation of four seniors, Montana returns a young squad in 2018 built of six incoming freshmen, two juniors and just one senior, Alex Canellopoulos.
Brown says he’s built the fall schedule to get as many reps as possible for his young team while he goes about the business of creating a depth chart.
“I’m hoping to travel everyone to all the events. I wanted to give them a bunch of different looks with every event too. We’ll be at-altitude at Weber, we’ll get the chance to break-in the new guys at Eastern, and the Dar Walters is always a huge event where they’ll get to see players from outside the region,” says Brown.
“We’ll finish indoors at Gonzaga after almost a month-long training block. So, I think that will give us a good idea of what we’re looking for going to into spring.”
New this year, the spring season will get underway a full two weeks earlier in 2019 thanks to the University of Montana’s adjusted academic calendar that sees students back in class on Jan. 10.
The Griz will return to Spokane on Jan. 19 to open the duals season against a Gonzaga outfit that finished 3-6 in West Coast Conference play last year.
“I’m excited about renewing Gonzaga as a regional rival. I’m hoping to get some home-and-home matches with them, and I think they’ll be really competitive,” Brown added.
Montana then returns home for its first two home matches of the season in early February. UM will host Whitman on Feb. 2 and a nonconference tune-up against Montana State on Feb. 3.
Brown will then get the most out of his first Big Sky road trip when the Griz travel south to face Northern Colorado on Feb. 9. While on the Front Range, UM will meet the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and will also pick up a neutral court nonconference tune-up against Abilene Christian on the Academy’s courts, giving Montana plenty of mile-high matches.
“It will be difficult at altitude with really fast courts. It will be good for the guys to see some adversity before we get into the heart of the conference schedule,” said Brown.
The Grizzlies will then undertake perhaps the most challenging road trip of the year, continuing a decade-long tradition of paying a visit to the Pac-12’s Utah Utes on Feb. 23. While in Salt Lake, UM will also get a crack at Marquette, the defending Big East Conference champions.
“That will be a real good test and another great barometer of where we’re at,” said Brown. “When you play teams like that, it helps keep the guys motivated when they get to see what is possible in college tennis.”
Before diving head-first into conference action, Montana will then play another combined trip when they head to Oregon to face both Portland State and the University of Portland, who finished fourth in the WCC last season at 13-6.
The Griz will then return home for a massive pair of Big Sky matches in Missoula, hosting Northern Arizona and Weber State, two teams that traditionally play a big part in UM’s league standing during the regular season, and are frequent tournament opponents too.
In Big Sky tournament history, UM is 7-6 against NAU and 5-2 against Weber State, meaning the Griz have played one or the other (or both) in 20 of their 28-straight trips to the tourney.
“That will be a defining moment in the season for us I think,” said Brown. “A lot like our match against Idaho at home last year, NAU and Weber will be a huge weekend for us. We’re excited to have them at home.”
Montana will need the home-court advantage when NAU comes to town. The Griz have knocked the Lumberjacks out of the Big Sky tournament for the last two-straight years, and know they will be out for revenge when they come to the Garden City.
UM also has a point to prove against Weber State, whom the Griz have not beaten since the 2014 Big Sky championship match, despite being up with several match points to win on different occasions.
“We need to get that monkey off our back a little bit,” Brown added.
Montana’s spring break will be spent in Las Vegas, where UM will play another pair of familiar nonconference foe in UNLV and Boise State on March 27 and 28.
UM then returns home for another set of essential league matches against the traditionally strong Sacramento State Hornets and Idaho State Bengals.
After facing EWU and MSU on the road, the Griz will cap the season hosting 2018 tournament debutants Southern Utah on April 21 before hopefully heading back to the Big Sky championship tourney in Phoenix for a 29th-straight year.
“Sacramento State and ISU are always difficult, and with all the parity of the Big Sky, I’m really excited to have Southern Utah at home. There are no easy conference matches anymore at all,” said Brown.
Date- Opponent – Location
9/21-23/2018 – Eastern Washington Invite – Cheney, Wash.
9/28-30/2018 – Weber State Invite – Ogden, Utah
10/5-7/2018 – Dar Walters Invite – Boise, Idaho
10/26-28/2018 – Bulldog Classic – Spokane, Wash.
1/19/2019 – Gonzaga – Spokane, Wash.
2/2/2019 – Whitman – Missoula, Mont.
2/3/2019 – Montana State – Missoula, Mont.
2/9/2019 – Northern Colorado – Greeley, Colo.
2/10/2019 – Air Force – Colorado – Springs, Colo.
2/11/2019 – Abilene Christian – Colorado Springs, Colo.
2/23/2019 – Utah – Salt Lake City, Utah
2/24/2019 – Marquette – Salt Lake City, Utah
3/1/2019 – Portland State – Portland, Ore.
3/2/2019 – Portland – Portland, Ore.
3/9/2019 – Northern Arizona – Missoula, Mont.
3/10/2019 – Weber State – Missoula, Mont.
3/23/2019 – Idaho – Moscow, Idaho
3/27/2019 – UNLV – Las Vegas, Nev.
3/28/2019 – Boise State – Las Vegas, Nev.
4/5/2019 – Sacramento State – Missoula, Mont.
4/6/2019 – Idaho State – Missoula, Mont.
4/14/2019 – Eastern Washington – Cheney, Wash.
4/18/2019 – Montana State – Bozeman, Mont.
4/21/2019 – Southern Utah – Missoula, Mont.
4/25-28/2019 – Big Sky Championship – Phoenix, Ariz.
Home Matches in BOLD