(Editor's note: University of Montana Media Release)
MISSOULA -- Home court advantage fueled the Griz as the Montana women's tennis team opened the spring duals season with a pair of competitive 4-0 losses to the Pac-12's Utah Utes in a Friday doubleheader at the Peak Racquet Club in Missoula.
With some gutsy performances, the Grizzlies hung with the Utes in the doubles rounds of the day's matches and produced some near misses in singles to start the new year on a positive note.
"I think getting out and getting some experience right away this season was important, and we got a little bit better in the afternoon. So, that was a positive," said head coach Steve Ascher.
"It was a nice surprise to see how we played in doubles. I think we were pushing there, everyone was competing hard, and we were controlling the things we can control. I think that's a real positive."
Montana started strong in doubles in the first match of the day, giving Utah's No. 24-ranked Hekking/Tattini pairing all they could handle on court one. Griz junior Julia Ronney and freshman Olivia Oosterbaan were on the brink of a major upset, tied 5-5 on court one when the Utes clinched the point with wins on courts two (6-2) and three (6-2) to give the visitors an early 1-0 team lead.
Ronney, Montana's returning first-team All-Big Sky performer, carried the momentum into singles as well, taking brief leads in both the first and second set before falling to Madison Tattini 6-4, 6-3 on court one.
In the second match of the day, Ronney got off to a hot start against Tattini again, building a 4-0 lead in the first set when the match was called.
"Julia's playing great tennis. Her fall was great. She wants it. She's pushing for it, and she's going to take this, learn from it, and keep going," said Ascher.
Playing in her first college singles dual, Oosterbaan rebounded from a 6-0 sweep in the first set to build a 4-3 lead in over former Eastern Washington standout Madeline Lamoreaux in the second, before running out of gas and falling 6-0, 6-4 on court two.
In the second match of the day, Oosterbaan forced a seventh game, tied with Utah senior Whitney Hekking in the second set 6-6 (3) when the match was called, signaling a bright future for the freshman.
"I think she's got the power and the game to hang with anyone, so I think just continuing to learn will be huge for her," Ascher added.
Grizzly sophomore Lauren Dunlap was also on the verge of an upset on court four in the first match of the doubleheader, falling 7-5 in the first set and tied 2-2 when the match was called.
Dunlap finished strong in the second match of the day as well, dropping a 6-2, 7-5 decision on court four.
Montana will cap its three-match weekend on Saturday with a one-off dual against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. First serves at the Peak are scheduled to go up at 9 a.m. On Sunday, the Gophers and Utes will square off at the Peak in a neutral-court dual starting at 9 a.m. All of this weekend's matches are free and open to the public.