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Montana tennis to open season with high expectations

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Posted at 2:47 PM, Jan 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-08 16:47:40-05

(University of Montana Media Release)
MISSOULA -- The Montana men's and women's tennis teams will open the 2020 duals season with high expectations, with the Grizzly men picked to finish second, and the women picked sixth in the Big Sky preseason polls, the conference announced Wednesday.

In voting conducted by the league's coaches, the UM men picked up 87 points and two first-place votes to come in second behind the defending champion Northern Arizona Lumberjacks, who totaled 96 points and seven first-place votes.

After a strong fall season, the Grizzly women were picked to return to the Big Sky championship tourney for the first time since 2015 with a sixth-place finish in the voting at 56 points. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own team.

The Grizzly men open the season in February in search of the program's 30th-consecutive trip to the conference championship tournament, but for the second-straight year they'll have to do it with a predominantly young team.

Led by seniors Ludvig Hallgren and Max Korkh, the remaining eight players on the 10-man roster will take the court as either a sophomore or true freshman. But with the likes of sophomore Oisin Shaffrey returning after going 7-3 in conference play as a freshman, the Griz will be a talented, if young bunch in 2020.

"I think the poll is a testament to the legacy Kris Nord built here, with Montana teams being consistently good and competitive, but I'm not sure it reflects a team that's primarily made of underclassmen," said head coach Jason Brown. "We're an incredibly young team, and we'll have our work cut out for us to live up to the expectation."

The Montana women enter the 2020 season looking to continue their upward trajectory with a predicted sixth-place finish after missing out on the Big Sky tourney the past four years.

The Grizzly women will also take the court as an overall young team this season with no seniors and just two juniors to lead the squad, but what they lack in age they are making up for in talent.

Set to return as one of the top players in the Big Sky is junior Julia Ronney, who earned first-team all-conference honors as a sophomore and an all-conference honorable mention as a junior. Also back is her doubles partner Bianca Bostrom, with the pair earning an all-conference honorable mention last season as well.

Ronney continued her high level of play into the fall season, highlighted by an impressive win over the nation’s No. 93-ranked (and regional top-ten) Anna Reidmiller of the University of Denver at the San Diego State Invitational in November.

Freshmen Olivia Oosterbaan and Maria Goheen made a statement for the Griz during their first fall season as collegiate tennis players. Oosterbaan impressed with a run to the round of 16 at the ITA Mountain Regional, upsetting UNLV's 8-seed Izumi Asano along the way. Goheen also found success in San Diego, picking up a Gold Draw consolation draw title with wins over opponents from Air Force and Eastern Washington along the way.

With a team of relative unknowns in the Big Sky landscape, head coach Steve Ascher thinks Montana is in a position to surprise the league when the conference tourney rolls around in late April.

"These polls are hard because so much is based off last year. I think we had a really good fall, and that's the important part. So, we're looking build on that and get after it," said Ascher.

The Montana women open their season on January 17 against some of the stiffest competition they'll see all year, hosting Utah in a doubleheader beginning at 9 a.m. at the PEAK Racquet Club in Missoula, followed by a dual against the Minnesota Golden Gophers on January 18.

The Grizzly men also open their season against Utah but will travel to face the Utes in Salt Lake on February 1.

2020 Big Sky Men's Tennis Preseason Poll

Rank
School
Points (First Place Votes)
1
Northern Arizona
96 (7)
2
Montana
87 (2)
3
Southern Utah
66
t4
Portland State
58
t4
Weber State
58
6
Sacramento State
57 (2)
7
Idaho
50
8
Montana State
41
9
Idaho State
39
10
Northern Colorado
34
11
Eastern Washington
19

2020 Big Sky Women's Tennis Preseason Poll

Rank
School
Points (First Place Votes)
1
Northern Arizona
100 (10)
2
Weber State
86 (1)
3
Idaho
79
4
Eastern Washington
67
5
Sacramento State
65
6
Montana
56
7
Idaho State
50
8
Southern Utah
38
9
Montana State
27
10
Portland State
19
11
Northern Colorado
18