(Editor’s note: story by Montana Sports Information)
BOZEMAN – With one playing in her final match in maroon and silver and the other playing in her first Griz-Cat rivalry, Montana women’s tennis senior Lidia Dukic and freshman Claudia Reguant clinched a come-from-behind win for the Griz as UM defeated Montana State 4-3 on Saturday in Bozeman.
After dropping the doubles round, Montana claimed four wins in the singles round to seal its first victory over MSU in conference play since 2016, with the overall match not decided until the final result came in on court six.
The win caps the Grizzlies’ season at 4-6 in Big Sky play and 4-17 overall, just short of advancing to the conference championship tourney tied for seventh place in the league standings, one spot ahead of where they were picked in the preseason poll.
Meanwhile, the upset-minded Bobcats finish their year at 1-9 in conference play, and 3-16 overall.
Despite not punching a ticket to Phoenix, Montana ends its season on the highest of notes, building momentum for the young Grizzlies to take into next season when they will be poised to return to the Big Sky tourney.
Already down 0-1 after a loss in the doubles round, Montana sophomore Bianca Bostrom tied the match 1-1 with a 6-3, 7-5 straight-sets win on court three over MSU senior Linda Vink.
Following a loss on court two, UM’s other super sophomore Julia Ronney knotted the match again with a bounce-back three-set win on court one (6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-3) over Laura Mary. Mary started the day as one of the top players in the Big Sky, having only dropped two conference matches this season, and the only player in the league to take a set off Northern Arizona’s Chiara Tomasetti.
With the win, Ronney caps her second year at UM with one of the best singles record in the Big Sky at 7-1, despite battling an ankle injury in recent weeks.
“Julia is embodying resiliency at this point,” said head coach Steve Ascher of his returning All-Big Sky honorable mention.
The Bobcats then took another step toward victory with a win on court four over UM senior Nathalie Joanlanne in three sets (3-6, 7-6 (3), 3-6), leaving it up to Dukic on court five and Reguant on court six to pull out a Grizzly win.
Having been in a position to clinch the match for the Griz several times this season with a mixed bag of results, Dukic wouldn’t be denied in her final outing, dominating the first set 6-3, then holding on in the second to win 7-5 and knot the overall match 3-3 with Reguant still in play.
“It’s not very often you get to leave certain scenarios in your life as a winner. It’s special. Especially since she’s had some success this season and she’s had some gut-wrenching losses. So, to have her win in a Griz-Cat rivalry match is great,” said Ascher.
Reguant, meanwhile, was in a familiar position on court six with the pressure of a team rivalry win piled on her shoulders.
With just three singles wins to her name this season, the freshman from Barcelona has come on strong at the end of her first year at UM, entering the match against MSU having picked up the Grizzlies’ only win over NAU the week before, a 6-3, 3-6, 10-7 victory over the Lumberjacks’ Madi Moore.
Finding herself as the only Grizzly left in play, but now with a team win riding on the outcome, Reguant left nothing to chance, dominating MSU’s Sara Iverson 6-2, 6-2, to clinch the win for Montana.
“She’s been doing a lot of work in practice, and I think it’s been showing. The NAU match was huge for her because I think it gave her some belief,” said Ascher.
“It’s cool for a freshman on the last match of the season to win in a rivalry match. You can’t write that script.”