Women’s tennis takes down Montana to win Big Sky Championship

State Hornet Staff

The Big Sky Championship for women’s tennis went down to the wire Sunday at the Gold River Racquet Club, where No. 3 seed Sacramento State fought hard and pulled out the 4-3 victory over the No. 1 seed University of Montana.

The Hornets have extended the program’s conference titles to 13 in a row, as they were crowned the 2014 Big Sky Conference champions.

“We wanted to keep our championship streak alive,” said Sac State director of tennis Bill Campbell. “I knew it would be a tough match, but I didn’t think it was going to be quite as tough as it was.”

Senior Katharina Knoebl and sophomore Daria Savchenko opened up with doubles match No. 1, where the women overpowered Montana’s Sasha Carter and Laurence Pelchat at 8-3.

In doubles match No. 2, freshmen duo Deimante Bulatovaite and Alina Soltanici clinched the first point for the Hornets as they defeated the Grizzlies Estruch Carbo and Ashley Mackey at 8-4.

The women looked dominant in doubles, but the energy did not carry over into the first set of singles for the Hornets. Bulatovaite was swept in straight sets in singles match No. 5 at 3-6, 3-6 by Montana’s Ashley Mackey.

All but one Hornet dropped their first set to the Grizzlies. Savchenko was the only one to dig out a win in a tiebreaker situation at 7-6 (7-5).

“My first set was in the past and I started focusing on my second set,” Savchenko said. “I felt that she was tired already because I moved her (back and forth) on the court and she was missing too many (shots).”

The sophomore played tough in the first set, overcoming a rally by Montana’s Haley Driver in singles position No. 1. She completed a sweep in the second set at 6-2 and earned the second point for Sac State.

“I felt excited,” Savchenko said. “I got one point for my team and I felt that we had a chance to win.”

Soltanici in singles match No. 3 was able to push for a third set, but was outplayed by Montana’s Precious Gbadamosi (5-7, 6-1, 1-6).

The contest was even at 2-2 with only three singles matchups in progress.

“I had an image in my head of (Montana) taking pictures with the trophy,” sophomore Olivia Boija said after realizing her team was down in the first set of singles. “Then everyone turned up in their sets and everyone started to fight so that’s when I realized we could win.”

Knoebl in singles position No. 6 was able to force a third set and dominated the Grizzlies Maddy Murray (4-6, 6-3, 6-0) to gain the advantage for the Hornets. Sac State was up 3-2 with senior captain Sophie Lohscheidt and Boija both down in their third sets to Montana, where the two final matches were played on the courts next to each other.

Lohscheidt rallied to stay alive in her third set to Montana’s Sasha Carter at 4-4, but the senior ultimately fell to Carter at 5-7, 6-2, 4-6.

The Hornets rallied around their teammates, cheering them on as they were clinging onto their final hopes of making it to the NCAA women’s tennis tournament.

The match was even at 3-3 as the result of the competition came down to Boija, where the sophomore rallied in the third set to overcome her 3-4 deficit to force a tiebreaker.

The sophomore went up 6-3, just one point away from winning when Montana’s Laurence Pelchat battled back and put up two points. Boija hit a forehand shot down the line that was too much for Pelchat to handle and claimed the victory for the Hornets at 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7-5).

“I got a short on my backhand, so I (went) around and just hit down the line,” Boija said on the final point. “She was running (towards the ball) so I was so prepared to take a volley because she was so fast and she just misses then the girls were screaming and it was black from there.”

The women rushed the court letting out screams as they defeated Montana.

“It was a revenge for us since we lost the streak to them so it was really important (to get the win),” Boija said.

Sac State earned the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament with this win, and the women will find out who they will face in the first round on Tuesday, April 29.

“Our girls played fabulous,” Campbell said. “Our girls are very competitive and they do not like to lose.”