BOZEMAN, Montana – The weekend that just ended for the Montana State men’s tennis team had two team wins and some individual highlights, but for the third-year head coach Trey Morris it all comes down to one element.
“We started the conference (season) 1-0,” he said simply, referring to the Bobcats’ 7-0 win over Eastern Washington on Sunday. That game was the Big Sky Conference opener for both teams.
Montana State returns to action this weekend, hosting non-conference games against Seattle on Friday at 2 p.m. and Oral Roberts on Sunday at 2 p.m. Morris said this week’s opponents offer his team both strong competition and opportunity.
“Seattle has improved a lot this season,” said Morris. “They have added a great recruiting class. Coach (Kristina) Hollander is doing a great job with that program. We expect a very tough game.”
The Redhawks are 0-4 this season, dropping a few games against Washington (both 7-0) and one against Nevada (6-1) and Gonzaga (4-0). Filip Stivic and Veselin Kiselkov are at the top of the ladder, and they are both freshmen. To underline Morris’ point, the only two seniors on Seattle’s roster — Juan Pablo Jaramillo and Billy Givens-Jensen — are yet to play this spring.
Oral Roberts has dropped his two team games this season, taking 6-1 at Wichita State and 4-2 against Saint Louis. Golden Eagles’ top singles player, sophomore Volodymyr Zakharov, won both of his matches in the number 1 spot. Sophomore Kyle Johnson has ORU’s other singles win this season, a No. 6 win against Saint Louis.
“Oral Roberts is comparable to Seattle,” Morris said. “They have some very good new players and they are very strong at the top of the lineup.”
Montana State opened its spring season by winning three of its first four games, including Division I wins against Air Force and Eastern Washington. Morris cites quality depth as a positive force for his squad. “We have 10 guys who can make an impact for us,” he said. “Whoever we put on the pitch, I have confidence, can compete and do a great job.”
All nine Bobcats that competed in January have singles wins. sophomore Matej Panik stands 3-1 as MSU’s No. 1 singles player, and sophomore Daan Van Dijk is also 3-1 at number 2. Those two are 2-1 in doubles, are at 33rd in the ITA preseason national poll, leading Gonzaga’s nationally ranked No. 1 doubles team 5-3 before the game ended when the Bulldogs took the double point.
The Cats generated positive momentum with their season-opening win against Air Force and extended it with last week’s two wins. “The momentum is huge,” he said. “Coming off a 1-0 conference start and starting the season 3-1 should give the boys a lot of confidence. That’s important.”
Six of MSU’s nine players competing this season have racked up multiple singles wins, a testament to the team’s depth, but Morris is also attitude and intangibles. “We have to clean up some things in doubles,” he said, “but we talk a lot about mastering the manageable. Body language, attitude, those are things you can control and I thought we did a good job of that over the weekend. “
Both weekend games take place at the Bobcat-Anderson Tennis Center.