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Hallgren’s heroics seals Griz upset over #62 Zags

03 Dec 2021 | 07:18 | Tennis

In true March Madness fashion, the Montana men’s tennis team picked up one of the biggest wins in program history Sunday, upsetting the No. 62 Gonzaga Bulldogs on their home court at the Stevens Tennis Center in Spokane.

Pontus Hallgren provided the heroics for UM, clinching the 4-3 win over the nationally-ranked Zags in a back-and-forth three-set decider and giving the Griz their first win over a ranked team in modern history and their first win over GU since 2014.

Call it the tennis equivalent of a game-winning buzzer-beater.

Montana started the match hot early on, winning two of the three doubles matches to claim the crucial early point.

Junior Ed Pudney took a straight-set win on court two, and freshman Moritz Stoeger won in three sets on four to tie the overall match 3-3, leaving Hallgren to seal the deal for the Grizzlies heading into his third set of the day.

And with ice in his veins, the Swede delivered.

“I’m so happy for these guys. It’s been tough. We’ve had a tough schedule, we haven’t been playing our best, and it’s just been a tough year,” said head coach Jason Brown.

“I couldn’t be more ecstatic to get this win. I’m so happy for the guys. It was a real team effort, and everyone stayed dialed in.”

With the win, Montana improves to 6-8 on the season after a weekend sweep of Lewis-Clark State and Gonzaga. The Bulldogs fall to 11-5, with recent wins over Nebraska-Omaha and Utah State highlighting their resume.

The Grizzlies used a boost of momentum gained with a win in the doubles round to power their way to the upset.

“Doubles was the best it’s been all year,” said Brown.

“We talked before the match about belief. We’ve had a hard year and had a lot of things not go our way, but you can’t do anything if you don’t believe, and they went and showed what’s possible.”

Stoeger and Hallgren – both winners in the singles round – picked up the first win of the day for UM, cruising past GU’s Perkins/Egger pair on court three, 6-2.

After the Zags won on court one, Chase Bartlett and Oisin Shaffrey claimed the opening point on court three with a win over GU’s Trkulja/Roider pair, and UM was out to a 1-0 lead.

However, the Zags would bounce back, taking straight-set wins on courts six and three to regain the lead 2-1 early in the singles round.

Pudney then put the momentum back with the Grizzlies, brushing past Sasha Trkulja on the No. 1 court 6-3, 6-3, to tie the match at two.

Following a loss on court two, Stoeger tied the match again on court four, bouncing back to win the second and third sets 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, to tie the overall match at three-each, and place all eyes on court five where Hallgren was also locked in a three-set battle.

Hallgren would also have to rebound from a first-set loss to win the match, falling in the first 5-7 to GU’s Matthew Perkins.

After winning the second set, the pressure was turned up on Hallgren as the only court left to finish heading into the third set.

Holding the serve proved difficult for both Hallgren and Perkins, who repeatedly broke each other’s serve early in the set.

With the set winding down and tied 5-5, Hallgren held serve when it mattered most to take the 6-5 lead and capped the match by not giving up the point in the final game to take the 5-7, 7-5, 7-5, win and put the Griz up for good 4-3.

“The doubles round was huge. We got momentum there, and we knew we could win at least three spots in singles,” said Pudney.

“It’s the best feeling I’ve had since I came to Montana, and I was so happy for Pontus. It was a real team win.”

Montana, who was picked to win the Big Sky, will now play two more non-conference matches next week, traveling to Pocatello to face Air Force and Idaho State before returning home for conference matches against Idaho and Eastern Washington.

Montana vs Gonzaga (3/28/2021)
Montana 4, #62 Gonzaga 3
3/28/2021 at Spokane, Wash. (Stevens Center)

Singles competition
1. PUDNEY, Ed (UM) def. TRKULJA, Sasha (GU) 6-3, 6-3
2. ROIDER, Leon (GU) def. SHAFFREY, Oisin (UM) 6-3, 7-5
3. GOMEZ GALVAN, Pablo (GU) def. BENN, Milo (UM) 6-0, 6-3
4. STOEGER, Mortiz (UM) def. EGGER, Hunter (GU) 4-6, 6-4, 6-4
5. HALLGREN, Pontus (UM) def. PERKINS, Matthew (GU) 5-7, 7-5, 7-5
6. McDONALD, Theo (GU) def. MARTIN, Guillermo (UM) 6-1, 6-3

Doubles competition
1. McDONALD, Theo/GOMEZ GALVAN, Pablo (GU) def. PUDNEY, Ed/BENN, Milo (UM) 6-4
2. BARTLETT, Chase/SHAFFREY, Oisin (UM) def. TRKULJA, Sasha/ROIDER, Leon (GU) 6-4
3. STOEGER, Mortiz/HALLGREN, Pontus (UM) def. PERKINS, Matthew/EGGER, Hunter (GU) 6-2

Match Notes
Montana 6-8
Gonzaga 11-5; National ranking #62
Order of finish: Doubles (3,1,2); Singles (6,3,1,2,4,5)