FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona men's tennis team hopes to build on its momentum gained last week into its Sunday doubleheader when they play the host No. 63 New Mexico and Western New Mexico in Albuquerque, N.M. The doubleheader will be the Lumberjacks' second in two weeks after earning a split of their twin bill last week in Las Vegas.
"It starts with practice and we've had solid practices this week," said men's tennis assistant coach Joseph Heckley. "I think we're prepared and I hope we keep the momentum going and transfer the energy we had last weekend into this weekend."
Last week, the Lumberjacks were able to rebound from an opening weekend that was rough at times. Coming off a pair of 7-0 defeats to Arizona and Nevada, the Lumberjacks responded with a 4-0 shutout of Utah State in the first of two matches a week ago. Even though NAU would drop its second match to UNLV, 5-2, a lot of positives were taken away starting in singles play.
After going winless in 12 singles matches to open the season, the Lumberjacks posted a 5-4 record in singles play a week ago and could have easily won three additional matches that they were leading at the moment their win against Utah State was clinched. The NAU notables were led by junior Dominic Bermudez who won both of his matches at No. 3 in straight sets. Seniors Robert Martin, Patrick Schimmelbauer and Shaun Waters also posted singles wins with Waters' being the most impressive, coming against UNLV's Tamas Batyi, ranked No. 14 in the Mountain region, at the lead spot.
The doubles tandem of Martin and Waters picked up another victory and leads the team now with a 3-1 record while serving as the Lumberjacks' No. 1 duo. Bermudez and Schimmelbauer, last season's primary No. 2 doubles team, reunited last week as a pair and also notched a win against Utah State.
Overall all eight players on the roster saw action in at least one match last weekend and played competitive tennis regardless of the final result, showcasing the depth of this year's team that will prove to be a strength going forward.
"Last year we didn't have as much depth as we have this year," Heckley said. "This year we have eight solid players that can play in the lineup. Not everyone can play, but it creates a lot of competition within the team and it motivates everyone to get better."
The nationally-ranked Lobos open the weekend at 1-3 prior to a doubleheader of their own on Saturday. New Mexico dropped four spots from No. 59 to No. 63 this week after three losses last week in Winston-Salem, N.C. to nationally-ranked Wake Forest and Alabama as well as Penn State. The Lobos though do feature three of the Mountain region's top-20 players in Samir Iftikhar (No. 2), Jadon Phillips (No. 9) and Conor Berg (No. 19) as well as the region's No. 6 doubles team consisting of Phillips and Berg. Iftikhar, after claiming runner-up honors at the USTA/ITA Mountain Regional Championships, is also ranked No. 73 in the nation.
Western New Mexico, who will be opening its season this weekend, returns six players that saw action last year, three of which posted double-digit win totals led by Rodrigo Almeida's 19-3 record. Ameida posted a 9-1 record at No. 1 singles last season, garnering the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference's Player of the Year award. The Mustangs are the defending RMAC regular season and tournament champions.
NAU fell to New Mexico last season, 6-1, with the Lumberjacks picking up its lone team point on Bermudez's grueling three-set 10-point tiebreaker win at No. 3 singles over Iftikhar. The Lumberjacks have never beaten the Lobos and are 0-22 all-time against them. They also dropped their most recent match to the Mustangs in 2011 in a tight 4-3 match for their first loss to Western New Mexico in three all-time meetings.
Both matches on Sunday will be played at UNM's Linda Estes Tennis Complex. The Lumberjacks' day will begin with New Mexico at 12 p.m. and will be followed by Western New Mexico at approximately 3 p.m. Live stats will be available for the New Mexico match here.