FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Coming off their first winning season since 2002 and returning five of six starters, the NAU men's tennis team is poised to continue ascending the Big Sky table. The Lumberjacks will open their season on Monday at Scottsdale Community College at 1 p.m. before facing UC Riverside on Thursday, January 20, in Phoenix. NAU is 16-1 all-time against Scottsdale CC and 3-2 all-time versus UC Riverside.
In 2010, the Lumberjacks ended Sacramento State's unbeaten streak in conference play at 24, posted their most wins since 2000 (13), and advanced to their first Big Sky Championship final since 2001. In just her second season as head of the men's tennis team, NAU Director of Tennis Kim Bruno turned a team that was 7-18 in 2009 to a squad that went 13-9 and finished in second place in the Big Sky in 2010. The Lumberjacks were picked by the Big Sky coaches to finish in second place again this season.
After the 2010 NAU squad had no seniors, the 2011 Lumberjacks will benefit from the upperclassman leadership of senior David Flodberg, who posted a team-leading 14-6 singles record a year ago. The Gothenburg, Sweden native was a perfect 8-0 in the Big Sky at No. 5, earning him his second All-Big Sky honorable mention selection.
Junior Andrew Reiff earned his second All-Big Sky first team selection in 2010 after leading the squad at No. 1 singles, finishing the year 10-9 overall and 5-2 in conference play. Fellow junior Robin Pezzutto notched a 13-7 singles record and went 7-1 in the Big Sky at No. 3 and 4.
The 2010 Lumberjack squad was infused with outstanding play by a trio of freshmen, and while Kevin Taylor departed the squad to return to Canada, the Lumberjacks will rely heavily on a pair of returning sophomores. Hugo Ramadier went 13-8 in his inaugural campaign, posting a 5-3 conference mark while playing at the top-four singles positions and earning All-Big Sky second team honors. Fellow sophomore Patrick Schimmelbauer played most of his first collegiate season at No. 2, recording an 8-14 overall mark while impressing opponents and fans with his powerful serve.
Also returning in 2011 are juniors Josh Brown and Ben Lantz, while freshman Dominic Bermudez, who went a team-best 8-3 in the Fall, as well as newcomers Chris Fasulo and Josh Levinson will add depth to a potent Lumberjack roster.
Four teams on the Lumberjack's schedule begin the Spring in the ITA national rankings. The toughest early-season match for the squad should come on February 6, when NAU will play at No. 32 Arizona. Other challenging non-conference matches for the Lumberjacks will be road battles at No. 54 Santa Clara, No. 66 UNLV and No. 67 New Mexico State. The Lumberjacks will open their home schedule in Flagstaff Athletic Club East on March 5, hosting Portland State in their Big Sky-opener. All-five NAU home matches in 2011 will be conference battles, as the Lumberjacks will have the advantage of playing just three road Big Sky duals this season.
The Big Sky Championship will be hosted by Montana State this season, as the Lumberjacks will look to make a return trip to the Big Sky final in Bozeman. After nearly winning the conference a season ago, the NAU squad, filled with proven veterans and talented newcomers, will look to take the next step and claim a conference title in 2011.