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Two Montana Grizzlies make first-team all-Big Sky tennis

Posted at 5:23 PM, May 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-03 22:11:07-04

(Editor’s note: Story by Montana Sports Information)

MISSOULA — When Montana men’s tennis coach Jason Brown was still serving as an assistant under long-time mentor Kris Nord, the first player he recruited to the Grizzlies was a tall Canadian with a big serve named Max Korkh. And as with most freshmen, it took him a while to adjust to the speed of college tennis.

Fast forward three years and Brown is now the head coach, and Korkh has just wrapped up his junior season, which by all accounts was his best yet.

With a league-best 7-1 record in conference play on court three and a 6-1 record at the friendly confines of the Peak Racquet Club in Missoula, Korkh was named first-team All-Big Sky in singles by the league on Friday.

“It’s well deserved for the year he had. He won, especially at home, won in dominant fashion. Really statement wins. He was also a great leader in the gym, on the court, and in the classroom, and I’m glad he’s getting the recognition he deserves,” said Brown.

“I really feel like he’s fulfilling the promise that he brought when he came here. For me, this is not unexpected, and I expect even bigger things from him.”

The accolade – his first all-conference selection as a Grizzly – marks Korkh’s arrival as the next in a long line of Griz greats to earn first-team honors.

It also marks a steady improvement into the upper echelon of singles players in the league, starting with a humble 6-5 Big Sky record as a bottom-of-the-lineup freshman, improving to 7-3 as a sophomore, and capping his junior season as one of the best in the conference at 8-2.

In that 8-2 record, Korkh picked up straight-set wins over the likes of Sac State’s Hermont Legaspi (a second-team all-conference selection), Idaho State’s Lukas Ridemar, Montana State’s Joaquin Espinoza, and Southern Utah’s Remus Cope – all upper-lineup players on their respective teams – to finish the regular season on a 4-1 run.

He’s also now the 20th first-team all-conference selection in school history and follows 2018 graduates Yannick Schmidl and Victor Casadevall in collecting the league honor for singles.

His first Big Sky accolade comes just in time for him to become a senior leader with the team in the 2019-20 season.

“I think this award cements his place a tradition of great Montana tennis players. We had two first-team guys last year, and putting another on this year means a lot for the program, but it also lets him step into the leadership role nicely,” said Brown.

“He showed what hard work and dedication in the offseason can accomplish, and I think he will be a great role model for our still very young team.”

With Korkh’s help, Montana advanced to the quarterfinals of the Big Sky championship tournament, where they fell to eventual finalist Portland State. With half the starting lineup built of freshmen, the postseason appearance was somewhat unexpected for the Grizzlies, but an upset of second-ranked Southern Utah in the last regular season match of the year punched their ticket.

Now, with Korkh and fellow rising senior Ludvig Hallgren returning to lead UM and a championship experience under the freshmen’s belts, the Griz will be looking to make a deep run in the postseason in the 2019-20 season.

Through ups and downs, injury and illness, Julia Ronney remained the constant on court one for the Montana women’s tennis team in 2019, putting together the third-best singles winning percentage in the Big Sky at 7-1 (.875) in league play.

In her sophomore season, the San Diego native powered through a tough schedule to emerge as one of the league’s top players, and coaches around the conference took notice.

Ronney was named first-team All-Big Sky in singles, the conference announced Friday, and also received an All-Big Sky honorable mention in doubles with her partner Bianca Bostrom.

Her singles accolade breaks a four-year drought of first-team honorees for the Griz, with the last being both Sasha Carter and Precious Gbadamosi in 2015.

For head coach Steve Ascher, Ronney has quickly improved her game to reach the level of those former Griz stars, but it wasn’t easy.

“It’s amazing the amount of work she put in to get there in terms of how she competes on the court. She’s been able to channel the competitive fire she has and was able to use it in such an effective way in every match this year,” said Ascher.

“She made some big advancements in some strategy pieces in her game and improved her leadership too. She improved in so many different aspects of her game and put together that kind of season in the face of some injury and illness as well, which is cool. She really overcame adversity.”

After earning an all-conference honorable mention as a freshman, Ronney led the Grizzlies this season with a 15-12 overall record and went 9-9 during the most challenging spring duals schedule in UM history.

In nonconference play, she picked up a win over a Pac-12 opponent from Colorado and went three sets with players from Washington State, Minnesota, and Portland before finishing the year by going 8-2. During that stretch, her only loss came to Big Sky MVP Chiara Tomasetti and Wyoming’s Elisa Koonik.

Her combined fall tournament and spring dual singles record also puts her in elite regional company at 10-4.

In doubles, the super sophomore duo of Ronney and Bostrom were UM’s most consistent pair, going 4-4 together in Big Sky play and 5-7 overall.

The doubles honorable mention is the second All-Big Sky accolade of Bostrom’s career, coming off an all-conference second-team season in 2018 with Cam Kincaid.

Ronney and Bostrom both return in 2019-20, and as juniors will serve as the team’s elder states-women with no seniors on next year’s youthful roster.

Ascher says the pair’s experience as two of Big Sky’s best will do wonders for the younger Grizzlies as they set their sights on returning to the conference tourney, and he wants fans to enjoy the ride.

“As a coach and as a fan, you want to watch it. You want to see that level because it’s special to have it, and Julia brings it every time,” said Ascher.

“Now her teammates get to practice against that, and the freshmen have that to look up to, and figure out what it will take for them to get to the same place.”

2019 Big Sky Women’s Tennis All-Conference Team

First Team Singles
*%Chiara Tomasetti, Northern Arizona
*#Marianna Petrei, Idaho
*^Maria Tavares, Idaho
Julia Ronney, Montana
Madeline Lamoreaux, Eastern Washington
Jessica Stefan, Southern Utah

*Unanimous All-Big Sky First Team Singles Selection
#Four-time All-Big Sky First Team Singles Selection
%Three-time All-Big Sky First Team Singles Selection
^Two-time All-Big Sky First Team Singles Selection

Second Team Singles
Emilie Haakansson, Northern Arizona
Eszter Zador, Portland State
Jenna Dorian, Sacramento State
Laura Spataro, Idaho
Laura Mary, Montana State
Zoey Nelson, Eastern Washington
Marta Magalhaes, Idaho

Honorable Mention Singles
Megan Poe, Idaho State
Cali Fuller, Weber State
Hanneke Lodewijks, Northern Arizona
Adrianna Sosnowska, Northern Arizona
Jayden Nielsen, Sacramento State
Yuuna Ukita, Weber State

First Team Doubles
Madeline Lamoreaux/Rylee Braeden, Eastern Washington
^Marianna Petrei/Maria Tavares, Idaho
^Hanneke Lodewijks/Ellie Millard, Northern Arizona

^Two-time All-Big Sky First Team Doubles Selection

Second Team Doubles
Zoey Nelson/Louise Waite, Eastern Washington
Melissa Coburn/Madison Fenske, Idaho State
Sara Parker/Pei-Hsuan Kuo, Weber State

Honorable Mention Doubles
Laura Mary/Linnea Fristam, Montana State
Megan Lombardi/Yuuna Ukita, Weber State
Julia Ronney/Bianca Bostrom, Montana

Individual Awards
Big Sky Most Valuable Player: Chiara Tomasetti, Northern Arizona
Big Sky Freshman of the Year: Madeline Lamoreaux, Eastern Washington

2019 Big Sky Men’s Tennis All-Conference Team

First Team Singles
*#Tim Handel, Northern Arizona
Jeremy Field, Eastern Washington
Salvador Mijares, Southern Utah
^Mikus Losbergs, Sacramento State
Max Korkh, Montana
Lucas Taylor, Northern Arizona

*Unanimous All-Big Sky First Team Singles Selection
#Four-time All-Big Sky First Team Singles Selection
^Two-time All-Big Sky First Team Singles Selection

Second Team Singles
Alexander Flink, Montana State
Ruben Montano, Northern Arizona
Lucas Castelo Branco, Portland State
Matteo Fortini, Portland State
Facundo Tumosa, Northern Arizona
Hermont Legaspi, Sacramento State
Johannes Gjerdaker, Sacramento State

Honorable Mention Singles
David Felix, Idaho State
Tom Fisher, Northern Arizona
Tommy Edwards, Portland State
Paul Ohde, Weber State

First Team Doubles
^Tim Handel/Ruben Montano, Northern Arizona
Mikus Losbergs/Louis Chabut, Sacramento State
David Felix/Gary Rendek, Idaho State

^Two-time All-Big Sky First Team Doubles Selection

Second Team Doubles
Tom Fisher/Chris Steele, Northern Arizona
Tommy Edwards/Avery West, Portland State
Jonathan Morales/Conor Tordoff, Southern Utah

Honorable Mention Doubles
Alexander Flink/Drew Brown, Montana State
Lucas Taylor/Facundo Tumosa, Northern Arizona

Individual Awards
Big Sky Most Valuable Player: Tim Handel, Northern Arizona
Big Sky Freshman of the Year: Facundo Tumosa, Northern Arizona