The 57th ranked Idaho men’s tennis team gave a glimpse of what to expect when they move to the Big Sky next season by shutting out two future conference rivals Saturday in Missoula, Mont.
The 11-0 Vandals kept their winning streak alive with a 7-0 win against the University of Montana Grizzlies in their morning match and a 5-0 victory against Montana State in the afternoon.
Idaho won all but one match against Montana to avenge its upset loss to the Grizzlies two seasons ago when Idaho was nationally ranked. Sophomore Dmitry Perevoshchikov and senior Ivan Krijanto tied Montana’s Semion Branzberg and Zach Drost at the No. 3 doubles match before narrowly losing 8-7. After that, Idaho rolled, winning the No. 1 and No. 2 doubles matches while sweeping the singles matches.
Coach Jeff Beaman said the doubles matches helped give them the momentum they needed the rest of the match.
“Once they really kicked it into gear – taking it to a tie at No. 3 then a win at No. 2 – they really cruised from there,” Beaman said.
Seniors Abid Akbar and Marius Cirstea won at No.1 while sophomore Cristobal Ramos Salazar and junior Jose Bendeck won at No. 2. Both pairs are undefeated this season. Beaman said the unstoppable pairing of Akbar and Cirstea at No.1 gives them confidence heading into any matchup.
“Just to feel that you have a good chance at winning the No.1 spot every time, it takes a lot of pressure off the No. 2 and No. 3 guys,” Beaman said.
Perevoshchikov continued his undefeated streak of singles victories by winning at No. 1 against Mikolaj Caruk, the Big Sky Conference Tennis Player of the Week two weeks ago. Akbar and Cirstea won at No. 2 and 3 respectively, while Bendeck won at No. 4. Salazar won at No. 5 and Krijanto won at No. 6. Bendeck and Krijanto both fought their way to three-set victories.
Idaho had already clinched its victory against MSU before the match ended early due to inclement weather. Once again, Perevoshchikov, Akbar and Cirstea won at the top three spots in singles. Perevoshchikov beat Javier Martin-Morillas, another Big Sky Tennis Player of the Week honoree, in straight sets to improve to 10-0 on the season. Akbar earned an impressive win against Diego Campos, who entered the match 8-2 in singles matches. Sophomore Cesar Torres boosted his singles record to 10-0 by winning in straight sets at No. 4.
In doubles play, Akbar and Cirstea won at No. 1 again to improve to 10-0 this season. Bendeck and Salazar won at No. 2 and Perevoshchikov and Krijanto rebounded from their morning loss to win at No. 3.
Beaman said their success against these two teams should give Idaho confidence heading into next year when they transition to the Big Sky, especially since MSU is currently the leader in the conference standings with an 8-4 overall record. The Vandals’ dominance means they have a strong chance to be immediate conference title contenders in 2014.
Idaho will try to continue its dominance this season when the Vandals face their toughest test yet next Saturday against No. 45 ranked Oregon in Eugene. They will also play St. Mary’s the following day.
Anthony Kuipers can be reached at email@example.com