BOZEMAN — A few weeks ago, Montana State tennis players Daan Van Dijk and Matej Panik qualified as a doubles team for the Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Championships in San Diego which starts on Thursday.
They’re the first Bobcat doubles team to accomplish this in nearly 20 years.
“We’re preparing as if it was just another tournament,” said Panik, a sophomore. “We’re not thinking about it as the biggest tournament or anything. We’re going there to win as many matches as possible and hopefully bring home a trophy.”
Being roommates and paired together on the court, they became close in a short amount of time. Panik cooks up delicious banana cinnamon pancakes for the pair on Sundays. When playing, they balance each other out. Panik is from the Czech Republic and Van Dijk is from the Netherlands.
“He’s the hardest worker on the team,” Van Dijk said about Panik. “He goes serving each morning at 6 a.m. when we don’t have to. He’s really committed and really focused. That’s the best way to describe him I think.”
“Daan is very easy going,” Panik said. “It’s very easy to get along with him. We got great chemistry. He’s a very nice guy. As he said, I am kind of intense on the court, but that’s both in a good way and a bad way. If it’s going in a bad way, he’s always there for me trying to cheer me up.”
Both are playing in their first fall season with Montana State. Their success was unexpected, even to them.
“For me, it’s huge. I didn’t expect it, but it’s just the beginning,” said Panik.
Most players on the Bobcats roster are from overseas, and both players said that helped their transition to the United States.
“Having a team that is so international -- I think that really helps because like you said, they’ve all been through the same thing. They really help me out a lot,” Van Dijk said.
“They can help you out with everything on the court, off the court with your feelings and everything -- it’s just awesome,” said Panik.
The two are excited they qualified for this tournament and that they’re helping turn around the Bobcats program.
“We’re definitely hoping to make a name for MSU tennis and with that, the more interest it’s going to be for other guys to come here and play for MSU. We’re hoping our coach has started to build something two years ago and it’s only going up. We’re hoping we can be a part of that and continue on building,” Panik said.