Big Sky conference dual and the Battle of Portland

The Portland State Vikings men’s tennis team looked to get back on track against Montana State at home at Club Green Meadows in Vancouver, Washington.

The Vikings (2-2, 0-1 Big Sky) were trying to even out their record while the Montana State Bobcats (1-3, 1-0 Big Sky) tried to stay undefeated in conference play.

In their Big Sky opener, the Bobcats secured a road win over Northern Colorado 5-2. The PSU Vikings dropped their opener against the preseason favorite, Idaho. This matchup presented PSU with a chance to tie the Big Sky standings. The Bobcats and Vikings were picked sixth and seventh in the preseason coaches’ poll, respectively. To qualify for the conference tournament for the first time, the Vikings need to finish in the top six of the Big Sky conference.

In doubles lines 1-3, the Vikings would be represented by Stuart Tierney with Ian Risenhoover, Matt Pronesti with Wil Cochrane, and Brent Wheeler with Ethan Lopez. Tierney and Risenhoover squared off against three-time 1st Team All-Big Sky player Niklas Brandes with Javier Martin-Morillas. This match ended with the Viking duo coming out on top 6-4. They would only need one more doubles match win to secure the point. Pronesti and Cochrane would fall to Kellen Bates and Harry James 4-6.

The last doubles match was contested against the Bobcats’ line one singles player Andre Napoliatano and Dylan Harvala. Lopez and Wheeler pulled through with a 6-4 win to put the Vikings on top 1-0 in the Big Sky dual.

In singles lines 1-6, the Vikings would be represented by Lopez, Tierney, Wheeler, Pronesti, Cochrane and Risenhoover. Napoliatano squared off against Lopez, winning in straight sets to tie the dual score at one apiece. James fought off Cochrane in two tight sets to put the visitors on top. Tierney upset the all-conference player, Brandes, in straight sets to level the dual score.

Martin-Morillas put the road team back on top with a tough two set win over Wheeler. Pronesti came through for the Vikings in three sets, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 over Bates to set up a winner-take-all line six singles for the crucial Big Sky Conference win. Risenhoover dropped the first set 3-6 to Harvala before storming back in the second set 7-5. The third set, however, would go to the Bobcats 6-3 to give them a 4-3 dual win and 2-0 Big Sky record.

“After Montana State, everybody was pretty low; it was a very emotionally draining match, having it come down to a 3rd that was back and forth, up and down,” Cochrane said. “But a 3-4 loss is a lot of progress based on last year’s 7-0 loss to the same team. Looking ahead to possibly playing them again, I think we just need to do better at winning those crucial points which come with belief and confidence, which we should hopefully have lots of by the end of the season.”

In the battle for tennis supremacy in Portland, the Vikings (2-3) would take on their in-state rivals the University of Portland Pilots (2-0). The match was held at the West Hills Racquet & Fitness Club in Portland. The Vikings faced a tough task in defeating the Pilots, who they haven’t beaten in seven attempts. Their dual would be played on the day after the Big Sky encounter against the Montana State Bobcats. The back to back for the Vikings gave the Pilots an advantage, who haven’t played a match since they won 4-3 over previous number 68 East Tennessee State over three weeks ago.

In doubles lines 1-3, the Vikings did not make any changes from the match against the Bobcats.

Tierney with Risenhoover faced off against line one and two singles players, Reid Delaubenfels and Steffen Dierauf. The match left Tierney unable to play his singles match at line two. This match ended in a 6-2 win for the Pilots’ pair. Cochrane and Pronesti faced off line three singles Mathieu Garcia and Kent Andreasen in a close 4-6 win for the Pilots duo. The doubles win secured the Pilots the first point of the dual. In line three doubles, Wheeler and Lopez dropped their match 2-6 to line four and five Michai Pervolarakis and Garcia.
The absence of Tierney meant that all in lines singles 3-6 would be pushed up toward 2-5. Wil Junior Nate Chart would make his singles debut at line six. The Vikings provided tough matches for the Pilots, yet the momentum from winning against a ranked opponent propelled the University of Portland to win the dual 7-0.

“Tierney is a very important part of our team but we are deep all the way through and have experience playing at many different spots,” Cochrane said on the loss of Tierney in singles. “I think the emotional day we had before playing UP and the fact that they had a great team led to a less than great day.

“For the rest of the season we are just looking to build on some wins, right now we have been very competitive but haven’t come up with any significant wins, so we should look to start winning these tough matches and build on that confidence,” Cochrane said. “Right now, as a whole, our level of play is up and down. Once we get wins our level of play should start to get consistently higher, which would put us in a position to beat those top teams.”

You can see Cochrane and the PSU men’s tennis team look to get back on track when they host the Montana Grizzlies in a Big Sky Conference match on Feb. 21 at their home courts, Club Green Meadows.