(Editor’s note: story by Montana Sports Information)
MISSOULA – The Montana women’s tennis team hosted a season-opening doubleheader against a tough Washington State team on Friday, competing well but ultimately falling 0-7, 0-7 to begin the 2019 season.
“We’re getting those first jitters out of the way from the first matches of the season and realizing we’re there, that we can compete,” said head coach Steve Ascher. “Sometimes you see PAC-12 or a national ranking by their name, and you put them on a pedestal. We realized that we belong in this moment.”
The Grizzlies started the first match off with doubles action and came out firing against the Cougars. Senior Lidia Dukic and freshman Lauren Dunlap went ahead 5-4 but didn’t finish the match after the Cougars clinched the point on courts one and three.
Sophomore All-Big Sky performers Bianca Bostrom and Julia Ronney lost 4-6 while Eimear Maher and Nathalie Joanlanne fell 2-6.
UM’s young squad, made up of two seniors and six underclassmen, stayed calm in their remaining singles matches despite falling down early. Ronney led the way as the lone Montana player in the singles competition to force a third set against WSU’s Hikaru Sato, building energy off her win in the first set. But Sato would outlast Ronney in the final set to clinch the point for WSU 6-2, 2-6, 3-10, and the Cougars went into the break with a 7-0 win in the opening match of the doubleheader.
In the second match of the day Bostrom and Ronney again showed their talent picking up UM’s first doubles victory of the season, and Montana’s only win of the day, defeating WSU’s Melisa Ates and Yang Lee 6-3. Dukic and Dunlap couldn’t find the same pace in their earlier contest and lost 1-6 while Sophomore Eimear Maher and senior Nathalie Joanlanne fell short 3-6 to clinch the point for the Cougars.
“Anytime you get an opportunity to beat a Pac12 school its special. They played great and Julia going three sets in her first singles match – that’s what you’re pushing for,” Ascher said.
In the singles round, Montana ran out of gas and couldn’t gather momentum from their doubles victory. Bostrom and Joanlanne both lost 0-6, 2-6 in their second singles matches of the afternoon despite the energy from the crowd early on in the second set.
WSU would go on to win both duels 7-0 and sweep Montana in singles play to improve to 4-0 on the season, while UM dropped to 0-2.
The Grizzlies will regroup Saturday before heading back to Peak Racquet Club Sunday afternoon against Michigan State at 3:00 p.m.
“It’s a quick turnaround, but what I want to see is that continued determination and effort,” Ascher said.