MISSOULA and BOZEMAN, Mont. – For the first time in nearly 13 years, Sacramento State came up just short against a Big Sky opponent as Montana remained undefeated in conference play after battling for a tightly contested 4-3 win in Missoula on Friday, snapping the Hornets Big Sky-record 112 match winning streak. The Hornets took another 4-3 loss later Friday at Montana State, having to forfeit two matches with just five healthy players.
The loss to Montana was the first for the team in Big Sky play since a 4-1 setback in the Big Sky Tournament against Weber State on April 14, 2001. The streak, which included wins over Big Sky opponents in regular season and postseason tournament play, began on March 26, 2003 with a 6-1 victory at Montana State. The streak was the longest by any team from any sport in Big Sky Conference history, and is believed to be the longest in NCAA Div. I tennis history.
The short-handed Hornets (9-14, 7-2 Big Sky) faced Montana without two of their top players as sophomore Jennifer Nguyen and senior Katharina Knoebl both missed the match due to injury. Despite the depleted lineup the Hornets opened the day on Friday with a doubles sweep, winning 8-5 at No. 1 and 2 and with freshmen Deimante Bulatovaite and Andie Mouzes winning 8-3 at No. 3 to quickly take the first point of the match before Montana (12-7, 7-0 Big Sky) rallied back.
Freshman Alina Soltanici, replacing Nguyen at No. 1, had to retire in the second set of her match with an ankle injury. The first two singles matches to be completed were Hornet wins, however, with sophomore Daria Savchenko winning 7-6 (5), 6-2 at No. 2 and senior Sophie Lohscheidt winning 6-2, 6-3 at No. 3 to put the Hornets up 3-1 overall.
Sophomore Olivia Boija won the first set at No. 4 and led 5-3 in the third set, putting the Hornets just four points away from victory, but Montana's Laurence Pelchat rallied for a 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 win. Maddy Murray then topped Mouzes 6-3, 6-1 at No. 6 to even the match 3-3.
It came down to No. 5, where Bulatovaite and Montana's Ashley Mackey played into a third set in a match that was as close as any tennis match can be. Bulatovaite led 5-4 in the third set and had triple-match point up 40-0, but Mackey rallied back and the set moved to 6-6, forcing a tiebreak. Bulatovaite led 6-5 in the tiebreak before Mackey won three straight points to finish a 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (8-6) win and clinch the match to end the 112-match winning streak.
The team then drove three hours to Bozeman to face Montana State. Savchenko and Soltanici were unable to play, so with just five players healthy the Hornets had to forfeit the No. 3 doubles match, and though Boija and Lohscheidt won 8-5 at No. 1 the Bobcats won at No. 2 to take the doubles point.
Sacramento State took the top three singles matches, with Boija recording a 6-3, 6-3 win at No. 2 and Lohscheidt and Bulatovaite winning in three sets at No. 1 and 3, respectively. Mouses lost 6-2, 6-2 at No. 4 and freshman Emily McColl took a hard-fought 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 at No. 5. With the Hornets having to forfeit the No. 6 match with no players available, the point went to MSU to give them the match.
The match at Montana took six hours and the match at Montana State went five hours as the Hornets played 11 hours and traveled more than 200 miles between venues on a challenging Friday.
During the 112-match winning streak the Hornets outscored Big Sky opponents 682-41 in individual matches during that stretch. That includes winning by 7-0 or 4-0 scores in 16 consecutive matches spanning 2004 and 2005, 15 straight matches spanning 2006-07, and 13 straight matches spanning 2008-10.
Of the 112 straight wins, 62 of those outcomes were decided by 7-0 scores, 17 outcomes by 4-0 scores, and just three were decided in 4-3 nail-biting fashion.