13 Dec 2021 | 09:32 | Tennis
The Montana men’s tennis team rebounded from a loss in the doubles round and a slow start in singles to grind out a 5-2 come-from-behind win over Northern Colorado on Saturday to claim its first Big Sky Conference win of the season at the Peak Racquet Club in Missoula.
The win improves Montana to 7-4 on the season and gets its conference slate off on the right foot at 1-0 in league play.
“Congratulations to a gritty Northern Colorado team. They came in here and played like they didn’t have anything to lose, brought great energy and made us fight, made us earn it,” said head coach Jason Brown.
“It’s a good way to start conference with some tough competition against a team that didn’t come to Montana just to play. They came here to win.”
Oisin Shaffrey and Pontus Hallgren picked up a 6-2 doubles win on court three to put the Griz in contention for the all-important opening point, with the pair improving to 3-0 together, and Shaffrey moving to 7-1 in doubles this season.
But for the first time in eight matches, Montana couldn’t close out the doubles point, with Ed Pudney and Cameron Isbell (who returned from injury for his first action since early February) missing a break point to give UNC a 1-0 lead.
The Bears then rode the momentum into the singles round, with Kyle Pease running out to a 6-2 win over Max Korkh in the first set on court one, and Ludvig Hallgren falling down 4-1 on court two. But Hallgren was having none of it.
The senior from Stockholm stormed back from the 4-1 deficit to take a 5-4 lead that completely shifted the momentum in the room, leading to a 6-4, 6-2 win on court two, and setting the tone for an overall team win for the Griz.
“You lose the doubles point, and we haven’t really been in that position much this season, but all of a sudden we’re down in a couple of matches, and you think this could get tricky real fast. Especially with such a young team,” said Brown.
“But Ludvig played just like a senior. He got down, 4-1 in the first set, made some great adjustments, next thing you know we win a set across three courts, and all their momentum is gone. They’re quiet, and we’re back in control. Then you look around and think we’re in good shape.”
Those adjustments weren’t subtle, either. Hallgren says he entered the match with a calm and measured game plan designed to wear down his opponent Tom Pudney – the defending Big Sky Player of the Week. But when he fell down 1-4, that game plan went out the window.
“I started varying my game a little, I got more aggressive, I came forward a lot more and just had more fun,” said Hallgren, who could feel the momentum change for his teammates when he took a 5-4 lead.
“Max was down, and Oisin was grinding, and I got back up and let out a big roar. I think everybody took care of business after that. Momentum is just huge.”
Shaffrey tied the match 1-1 shortly after with a 6-3, 6-2 win on court three to improve his singles record to 7-2 this season. After Hallgren’s win on court two, Ed Pudney extended UM’s lead to 3-1 with a comfortable 6-2, 6-4 win on court four.
Pontus Hallgren then clinched the match for Montana on court five with another easy win (6-2, 6-3) to improve his singles record to 7-0 this season.
Montana returns to action on Sunday afternoon, hosing Portland State for its second-straight Big Sky Conference match in as many days. UM and PSU will get underway at 3 p.m. at the Peak Racquet Club. Admission to the match his free.