(Editor’s note: University of Montana media release)
MISSOULA – While deep freeze temperatures in the Midwest are expected to subside by the time the Montana women’s tennis team lands in Minneapolis, the action will be hot inside the Baseline Tennis Center as the Griz are set to take on Minnesota and either Colorado or DePaul at the Courtside Classic tournament this weekend.
The Grizzlies head to the heartland on week two of the most difficult nonconference schedule in program history to play in the four-team tourney featuring some of the best in the Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big East conferences.
Montana enters the Courtside Classic with a 0-3 record, but don’t let the lack of wins fool you. The Grizzlies are on the heels of confidence-building performances against strong Washington State and Michigan State teams to open the season.
Now head coach Steve Ascher wants to continue to build on his team’s belief that they can compete with anyone.
“We’re in there. We’re in there to win the doubles point. We’re in there to win singles matches. If you can start winning a match or two, and get them to 5-2, or 4-3, then you’re starting to help the players believe what they’re doing day-to-day is what is needed, and they will be successful,” says Ascher.
“It doesn’t happen overnight, but if you can get some victories under your belt, then you’re starting to believe. If all six believe, then you’re creating something special. To go after these bigger schools, you have to believe. I think we got some of that last week.”
THE SCHEDULE: Montana opens the Courtside Classic against the hometown Golden Gophers bright and early on Saturday morning, Feb. 2, at 9 a.m. Mountain Time. Should the Griz win, they will play the winner of the Colorado/DePaul match at 11 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 3, while the loser of the first round matches plays at 8 a.m.
Saturday, February 2:
Match 1: 10:00am (Minnesota vs. Montana)
Match 2: 2:00pm (Colorado vs. DePaul)
Sunday, February 3:
Match 1: 9:00 am (Loser Match 1 vs. Loser Match 2)
Match 2: 12:00 pm (Winner Match 1 vs. Winner Match 2).
COVERAGE: Minnesota will provide a live video stream of each match, with live scoring available as well. Links to each can be found at gogriz.com.
GRIZ TRACKS: Montana sophomore Julia Ronney earned the team’s nomination for Big Sky Player of the Week following the week one homestand against Washington State and Michigan State.
On singles court one, Ronney took a set from Washington State’s Hikaru Sato in the first match of the doubleheader, and was on the cusp of an upset against Michigan State’s Lauren Lemonds, building a first-set lead before falling 6-7 (4-7), 3-6.
In doubles, Ronney and her partner Bianca Bostrom were leading Michigan State’s Metcalf/Pietrowicz pair 6-5 when the Spartans clinched the point.
Ronney and Bostrom are both returning All-Big Sky performers from 2018. Ronney spent the majority of the season at No. 1 for the Grizzlies as a true freshman and earned an all-conference honorable mention. Bostrom was second-team all-conference doubles with Cam Kincaid.
A LOOK AT THE GOPHERS: Montana’s trip to Minneapolis will be the first leg of a home-and-home agreement with Minnesota, with the Gophers agreeing to travel to Missoula in 2020 for a nonconference matchup.
Minnesota is 1-1 on the season, with a 0-4 loss at No. 8 UCLA to start the year before rebounding to defeat the No. 41 ranked Florida International Panthers 4-1 on a neutral court in Los Angeles.
The Gophers are the only team in the field at the Courtside Classic that UM has ever faced before, with the Griz falling 0-7 in Missoula at the start of the 2013 season when Montana finished second in the Big Sky.
A LOOK AT THE BUFFS: Colorado finished ninth on the Pac-12 table last season and are off to a 2-1 start in 2019 in its firsts season under new head coach Danielle Steinberg, the former Kansas State coach and Mountain Region Coach of the Year.
The Buffs opened the season with a 7-0 win over Montana State and fell to Air Force 3-4 in Colorado Springs before defeating New Mexico 4-3 in Boulder.
A LOOK AT THE BLUE DEMONS: As 2017 NCAA tourney participants and 2018 Big East Conference runners-up, and the No. 7 ranked team in the Midwest region, DePaul might be the most talented team in the field.
Led by defending Big East Player of the Week Keisha Clousing on court one, the Blue Demons enter the Courtside Classic at 2-2 on the season. DePaul posted two-straight victories over conference foes Georgetown (4-3) and Butler (7-0) but dropped their opening two matches of the season to Purdue (2-5) and Western Michigan (1-6).
Montana returns to the road in two weeks to take on San Diego, Oregon, Portland and Portland State on a road swing through Oregon on Feb. 15, 16, and 17.