Men’s tennis defeats Montana for 11th conference title

Gabe Pacheco

The Sacramento State men’s tennis team hoisted another Big Sky Conference tournament title today as it defeated the University of Montana, 4-1 at the Gold River Racquet Club. 

It is the Hornets’ 11th conference title in the past 16 years.   

“It feels great to be (champions),” said sophomore captain Marek Marksoo. “That’s what we came here to do. For us to win five years in a row is definitely great. Being the favorite is not easy and it never is.”

With a target on their backs virtually the whole season, the Hornets used it to their advantage as motivation to perform as expected in front of the home crowd in attendance.

“It feels good in a sense,” Marksoo said. “We feel that we are the best here. We can see the other guys are always after us every year more and more. It gets closer and closer probably every year as well.”

Marksoo paired with solo senior and co-captain Aliaksandr Malko in doubles competition. The two leaders set a tone early with high energy and hustle in their match against Grizzlies Mikolaj Caruk and Michael Facey.

The match would be halted in the second set due to Tom Miller and Henrik Raag’s victory at the No. 3 spot that give the Hornets the point to secure doubles play. 

In singles play, Marksoo breezed to victory over Grizzlies’ Caruk at No. 1 by a 6-0, 6-0 score to give Hornets a 2-0 lead.

Malko later followed Marksoo in the win column at the No. 2 spot with a 6-2, 6-3 score over Andrew Warren.

Malko’s career as a Hornet ends with him earning his third straight conference title. 

“It feels amazing,” Malko said. “I won everything – one year in South Carolina and three years here”

Marksoo said Malko held nothing back in this tournament.

“He definitely gave it all towards the end of the season – you can see that,” Marksoo said. “He was doing very well in the conference finals and was more fired up then I have ever seen.”

The No. 6 spot featured Miller’s battle against the Grizzlies’ Zach Drost, which caught a lot of attention from the crowd due to Miller’s fiery emotions.

“They came out really fired up this year,” Miller said. “I kind of went into the match with too much expectations to win, it made for a really slow start. I had to pour some of my guts out there to turn the match around. I have always showed my emotions on the court and that really helped turn the match around today.”

Miller was ahead in the third set 3-0 before the match was called off due to sophomore Sean Kolar’s match clinching point at the No. 4. 

Kolar defeated Montana’s Ethan Vaughn with 6-4, 6-4 scores. 

The next step for the Hornets is the NCAA tournament, where they have never advanced to the second round. 

“We know we are the underdogs,” Marksoo said. “There is nothing to really to lose. I think we can all go out and play our best tennis because there is (absolutely) no pressure on us.”


Gabe can be reached on Twitter at @sh_sports