Griz Tennis Preparing for NCAA Opener Against Oklahoma - News, Sports and Weather

Griz Tennis Preparing for NCAA Opener Against Oklahoma

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MISSOULA - The Grizzlies overall record of 13-11 isn't eye popping, but many of those losses came during the non-conference season, a slate that coach Chris Nord says could have been the most difficult in school history, featuring several road trips against Top 25 ranked teams.

"I really loaded it up, I knew we had a lot of seniors, and we had a good team.  We wanted to test them and make sure once we got to conference we'd be ready for anything, and I really felt we accomplished that with our regular season," Nord says.

The challenge in the non-conference schedule led to the Grizzlies having a 9-1 conference record, and a win over Weber State in the Big Sky Championship meant the first ever men's tennis title in school history.

"I think most of us didn't really believe it, in that moment.  It was kind of a shock for us, even though we were ready to go and win the whole thing.  It was great.  Everybody was happy, and people were tearing up.  It was really fun to watch, especially for Chris Nord, and our assistant coach Jason Brown, and all of the seniors, it was a great moment that they were working for, for so long," Griz Sophomore Semion Branzburg says.

"It was pretty amazing to be honest.  It's completely new.  It's something we've never experienced, but it's great.  We were waiting for that for a long time, especially for all five seniors, we've been waiting for that since Freshman year, so it's been great," Griz Senior Mikolaj Caruk says.

In their first round of the NCAA tournament…the Grizzlies will be on the road taking on the Oklahoma Sooners…the second overall seed of the entire field.

"All six kids are nationally ranked, their 1 and 2 players are ranked 5 and 6 in the nation.  They're really good,"

One match in particular coach Nord hopes his team draws from was their Boise State match earlier in the year…which they lost to the #23 ranked Broncos…but played them close and did score some points.

"Boise is right in there.  They are probably not quite as good as Oklahoma, but our guys know we can compete.  The next day we almost beat Marquette, they  were ranked nationally, and we had match points against them.  The point of that non-conference schedule might pay off again in this match, I hope," Nord says.

While they may be underdogs, for the five seniors on the team, they say they're thankful for their teammates, and their time spent in Montana.

"It's good to be on this team.  It's as simple as that.  It's a really good feeling to be on this team with all these guys.  We have great chemistry, we all like each other, and somehow we deal with all the trips, the times in hotel and all that stuff on the road, so it worked out great," Caruk says.
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