FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona men's tennis team opens up Big Sky conference play on Saturday against Northern Colorado on a high note following its first win of the season two weeks ago against UC Riverside. The Lumberjacks snapped an early two-match losing streak to open up the season and are a vastly improved team heading into conference play this weekend.
"I think the win against Riverside was really big for us," said director of tennis Kim Bruno. "The improvements we made that weekend were huge. Conference is a little different deal and we all know that, but I think we're in a good spot heading into Northern Colorado."
Junior Shaun Waters led the Lumberjacks in their two-game Riverside road trip two weeks ago with a pair of straight-set singles wins at No. 4. Waters was the only player to win in singles play in the team's 6-1 loss to Vanguard, but was joined by sophomore Dominic Bermudez, junior Robert Martin and senior Ben Lantz in the win column to pace NAU to a 5-2 victory over UC Riverside.
Lantz also won two doubles matches that weekend at No. 3 with his doubles partner, junior Patrick Schimmelbauer. Lantz and Schimmelbauer's two doubles wins are tied for the team-lead with the duo of Bermudez and Martin, who've seen action at both the No. 2 and 3 spots this season.
Northern Colorado was one of four Big Sky teams to begin conference play last weekend and enter this weekend 0-1 in the conference after a 6-1 loss to Eastern Washington last Saturday. The Bears earned their first victory of the season the next day though, narrowly getting by Seattle, 4-3, and currently hold a 1-2 overall mark. Four Bears have one singles win apiece, while the doubles pair of Ben Gendron and Brandon Lupo have posted a 2-1 record at No. 1 through the team's first three matches.
Following their match against Northern Colorado, the Lumberjacks will stay in the state of Colorado for a road match against Air Force on Sunday. The Falcons are 3-1 this season and have wins over Northern Colorado, Colorado State-Pueblo and UT-San Antonio. Air Force has been impressive in the early going, compiling an 18-6 singles and 8-4 doubles marks. They have four players with three singles wins and all seven players that have competed in singles play have at least two victories.
The Lumberjacks are 9-0 all-time against the Bears and have blanked Northern Colorado, 7-0, in each of their last five meetings. NAU has defeated Air Force the last two times the teams have met, most recently in 2010, and owns the slight series edge over the Falcons, 3-2.
"Air Force is always a battle," Bruno said. "If we play well, we can come away 2-0 this weekend. I know the guys are fired up. It should be a good road trip for us."
Saturday's Big Sky opener in Greeley, Colo. is scheduled for 2 p.m. and then the men will have a quick turnaround for a 10 a.m. start on Sunday at the Air Force Academy.