(Editor’s note: Story by Montana Sports Information)
MISSOULA – The Montana men’s tennis team was expecting a battle against an improved Northern Colorado team in Greeley on Friday and received just that, bouncing back from a loss in the doubles round but claiming five singles matches in a 5-2 win.
The victory opens the Grizzlies’ 2019 Big Sky Conference account with a win and moves them to 3-1 on the season, while at the same time avoiding another early-season setback to the Bears (3-4) on the road.
Following a sweep of Montana State and Whitman in Missoula last week, UM dropped its second doubles point of the season in Greeley to fall behind early 0-1. But the heart of Montana’s singles lineup came through in the clutch, sweeping courts two through six to seal the win for the Grizzlies.
The momentum shifted UM’s way when Ed Pudney won his match on court four, while at the same time Alex Canellopoulos and Ludvig Hallgren each won a tiebreaker on courts one and two.
“That really took the air out of the room for them,” said head coach Jason Brown. “That could have been a trap match, so it felt good to get the win. I was nervous after we lost the doubles point, but everybody showed up in singles. You couldn’t ask for a better response.”
Montana’s only loss of the day in singles came on court one, where Alex Canellopoulos felt to Kyle Pease in a close third-set tiebreaker.
“Alex fought his tail off to the bitter end. It didn’t go his way, but that was because Pease played really well. He should be proud of himself,” said Brown.
Playing in their first conference match, each of UM’s three freshmen in the lineup came away from Greeley with a win. Pudney defeated Nick Wade 6-3, 6-3 to shift the momentum in the Grizzlies favor.
With the match still in question, Oisin Shaffrey clinched the win on court five 7-5, 6-1 to put UM up for good 4-2. Pontus Hallgren then added to the Grizzlies’ lead with a 10-point tiebreaker on court six, giving the Swede the 5-7, 6-4, 11-9 victory and Montana a 5-3 win.
“That’s a tough place to get a win, and I just couldn’t be more elated that all the freshman in the singles lineup stepped up and got a win for us. What more can you say about them? It was a nice effort,” added Brown.
Montana now heads south on the Front Range for non-conference matches against Abilene Christian and the Air Force Academy on the campus of the USAFA in Colorado Springs. The Grizzlies will face the ACU Wildcats on Saturday at 11 a.m., then face off against the Falcons on Sunday at 2 p.m. Links to a live stream and live scoring are available on GoGriz.com.