All-Conference

Montana’s Brown is Big Sky men’s tennis Coach of the Year

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In 2018, the Montana men’s tennis team advanced to the Big Sky championship match for the sixth time in program history, and for the first time since 1986 when legendary Grizzly mentor Kris Nord was not the head coach.

After Nord stepped aside in the summer of 2017 to become the head women’s golf coach at UM, longtime assistant and former player Jason Brownassumed the role of Interim Head Coach.

In his first season at the helm, the Grizzlies didn’t miss a beat, tying the record for the second-most wins in program history, going undefeated at home, and leading UM to a slew of other first-ever accomplishments.

Now Brown can add another accomplishment to his resume. Something special that Nord achieved just twice in his 36 years of coaching excellence at UM: be named the Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year.


On Friday, the Big Sky announced that Brown would be the recipient of its top coaching award after his first season as head coach at UM, an honor voted on by his peers around the league.

“It was a great piece of news. I’m very happy, but this is just an extension of what Kris Nord has done for our program,” Brown said.

Brown played college tennis under Nord in the 90’s and began coaching under him in 2013 – the same year the Griz advanced to the NCAA tournament as Big Sky champions for the first time in program history.

In all that time, Brown has learned just what it is that makes Montana a perennial contender in the Big Sky, as evidenced by the Griz advancing to the conference tournament for a record 28th-straight year in 2018.

“I want to do things that would make Kris proud and carry on the tradition of the program the way he would want. This is a little bit of recognition I was doing that,” said Brown.

“He is so respected in the Big Sky, I mean, so respected, and the idea that I can carry that on a little bit in my own way means a lot to me. It shows Montana is doing the right things and it feels special.”

In his first year as head coach, Brown led the Griz to a 14-6 overall record, tied for the second-most wins in program history and the second-fewest losses while going undefeated at home at 7-0. He and the Griz exceeded expectations, finishing the year tied for second in the Big Sky standings after being picked fourth in the preseason poll.

Brown led UM to a signature win over the defending champion Idaho Vandals, who the Griz had not beat during the regular season since 2011. He also helped his squad pick up its ninth-straight win over Montana State.

He helped guide senior Victor Casadevall to the quarterfinal of the ITA Mountain Region Tournament, further than any Grizzly had ever previously advanced. He helped guide Yannick Schmidl and Alexander Canellopoulos<http://gogriz.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=4363> to an ITA national doubles ranking, something no other Grizzly had ever accomplished.

Brown helped Casadevall and Schmidl earn a place on the first-team All-Big Sky list, only the third time in program history the Griz have placed two or more players on the first team.

He also helped guide Schmidl to the top overall singles record in the league, and, along with Max Korkh, the best overall doubles record as well.

He’s done all of that and more in just one year as a head coach for the Grizzlies.

Nord was first named Big Sky Coach of the Year in 2012 when the Griz won the Big Sky regular season championship and again in 2014 when they won the conference tourney and advanced on to play Oklahoma in the NCAA tournament.

A native of Conrad, Montana, Brown played under Nord at UM from 1991-1995. He began his coaching career at the high school level in Missoula, coaching at both Missoula Big Sky and Missoula Sentinel.

The University of Montana expects to name a permanent head coach for the men’s tennis program in the summer of 2018.

Three Griz tennis players earn All-Big Sky honors

The Montana men’s tennis team put together one of the best seasons in program history in the 2017-18 year, driven by a senior-led lineup that was supported by consistency and power from underclassmen lower in the order.

On Friday, coaches around the Big Sky gave recognition where it is due, with seniors Yannick Schmidl and Victor Casadevall being named first-team all-conference. Schmidl, one of the league’s most dominant overall players, also picked up a second-team All-Big Sky award with his doubles partner, sophomore Max Korkh.

From left: Yannick Schmidl, Victor Casadeval, Max Korkh/ UM athletics

With the best overall winning percentages on courts one and two in the Big Sky, Schmidl and Casadevall combined for a 17-4 singles record in league play, each picking up landmark wins for the program in the process. As a doubles pair, Schmidl and Korkh racked up the best overall doubles winning percentage in the league at 10-1 on the year to help lead the Griz back to the Big Sky title match for a second-straight year.

This is the second first-team all-conference nod for Casadevall in his illustrious career that saw him become the first-ever Grizzly to advance to the quarterfinal of the ITA Mountain Regional tournament and go 7-2 in league play.

“It’s a tribute to what a class act he is on court,” said interim head coach Jason Brown. “He doesn’t say anything, just goes about his business.”

Casadevall was named first-team all-conference as a sophomore and would have likely repeated his junior year to become one of only two other Grizzlies to earn three first-team selections but missed several matches due to injury.

“It will go unnoticed that he had matches where he could barely walk and he would find ways to get on the court and win,” added Brown.

Schmidl earned an All-Big Sky honorable mention in singles as a freshman in in 2015 and now returns to the list in 2018 after posting the league’s best overall record at 13-4, a .765 winning percentage.

In doubles, this year’s honor marks the second of his career, named to the second-team all-conference list with Alexander Canellopoulos in 2017, and again in 2018 with Korkh.

“There was a stretch at home where he played better tennis than I’ve seen at UM in – I don’t know how long. He was untouchable,” said Brown, whose Griz posted an undefeated 7-0 record in Missoula. “He was a monster. An emotional catalyst, a leader on the court and off, and he really led the doubles charge.”

This is the first All-Big Sky recognition for Korkh who earned a Big Sky Player of the Week award his freshman year.

After combining forces halfway through the season, Schmidl and Korkh did nothing but win on court two as they became the top overall pair in the league.

Korkh had been struggling in doubles early in the season as Brown tried different lineups but found his winning touch after pairing up with Schmidl. With the senior moving on, Brown says Korkh is now poised to become the next great doubles player for the Griz after going under Schmidl’s wing.

“You can only teach so much at practice, doubles has to be taught at game speed. Yannick taught graduate level doubles in the middle of matches and helped turn Max into a heck of a doubles player,” said Brown. “Pairing them up was a move toward the future, but it worked incredibly well in the immediate.”

Casadevall and Schmidl, who combined to win the Big Sky Player of the Week award three times this season (which has only been done six times in program history), indicating just how important were to, not only this year’s team, but to the future of Griz tennis as well.

As roommates since the first day they both arrived on campus, they remain best friends while offering contrasting styles of senior leadership that Brown says will pay dividends for years to come.

“If you’re a little more vocal and passionate, Yannick’s your guy. If you’re more of a workman, go about your business with your head down, fight in your own steely way, Victor is your guy,” said Brown. “They both offer something, and as a coach, it’s nice to have the blend of the two that you can point your younger players to and say, this gets the job done, but that gets the job done too.”

2017-18 All-Big Sky Honorees

Men’s Most Valuable Player
Tim Handel, Northern Arizona

Men’s Freshman of the Year
Jonathan Morales, Southern Utah

Men’s Singles First Team All-Conference
Mark Kovacs, Idaho
Yannick Schmidl, Montana
Tim Handel, Northern Arizona
Victor Casadevall, Montana
Stefan Cooper, Weber State
Kris van Wyk, Weber State

Men’s Singles Second Team All-Conference
Lucas Taylor, Northern Arizona
Jeremy Field, Eastern Washington
Nathan Boniel, Portland State
Mikus Losbergs, Sacramento State
Peter Trhac, Idaho State
Felipe Fonseca, Idaho
Jonathan Morales, Southern Utah

Men’s Singles Honorable Mention
Kasparas Zemaitelis, Sacramento State
Thomas Fisher, Northern Arizona
Michiel Van Schoor, Weber State
Carlos Longhi Neto, Idaho

Men’s Doubles First Team All-Conference
Peter Trhac/David Felix, Idaho State
Mikus Losbergs/Kasparas Zemaitelis, Sacramento State
Mark Kovacs/Carlos Longhi Neto, Idaho

Men’s Doubles Second Team All-Conference
Yannick Schmidl/Max Korkh, Montana
Tommy Edwards/Avery West, Portland State
Tim Handel/Thomas Fisher, Northern Arizona

Men’s Doubles Honorable Mention
Stefan Cooper/Kris van Wyk, Weber State
Jonathan Morales/Conor Tordoff, Southern Utah
Lucas Coutinho/Esteban Santibanez, Idaho

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