FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona men's tennis team heads to Las Cruces, N.M. this Friday and Saturday for a pair of matches where they will look to pick up the pieces from a disappointing showing last weekend. After falling 6-1 at Air Force and a dropping a narrow 4-3 decision at Northern Colorado in their conference opener, the Lumberjacks face New Mexico State and UT-Arlington this weekend with their sights set on getting back on track.
"The story of our spring season has been the start of our matches, winning that doubles point and that's something we've really struggled with," said men's tennis assistant coach Joseph Heckley. "We've got two tough matches and the guys have nothing to lose and I want them to be confident in their abilities. I really want to take something positive away from this weekend to use it going forward especially in our conference matches."
The Lumberjacks, once again last weekend, struggled from the onset of their matches as they won just one of their six doubles matches while dropping the doubles point to both Air Force and Northern Colorado.
Unfortunately the trend that has plagued the team was extended as the Lumberjacks are now 0-7 this season when they have dropped the doubles point and 2-0 when winning the doubles point, a big indicator when looking at their overall record of 2-7. Dating back to the start of the 2012 season, the Lumberjacks are winless in 21 matches when they enter singles behind on the scoreboard and 8-1 when they take an 8-1 record into singles play.
"I don't want them to play nervous because they're great players," Heckley said. "That's how we lost to Northern Colorado. We lost the doubles point and we got down. I want them to know they're going to be competitive and know that they can win."
While doubles has been a stumbling block for the Lumberjacks, singles play has offered bright spots throughout the season. In two of their last three matches, NAU has managed a split of singles play but was ultimately done in by the doubles point in 4-3 losses to UC Riverside and Northern Colorado. The Lumberjacks have received contributions up and down their singles lineup thus far as four players currently are tied for the team-lead with three victories. Seniors Patrick Schimmelbauer and Robert Martin, junior Dominic Bermudez and sophomore Kester Black have occupied the No. 2 through 5 positions primarily this season and each have three wins to their name.
First up this weekend for NAU is New Mexico State on Friday. The Aggies, 4-3 on the season, will be playing their first match at home since their season opener on Jan. 19 but has not played since a 6-1 victory over St. Mary's on Feb. 9. New Mexico State defeated NAU last season, 5-2, by winning four singles matches and claiming the doubles point. Bermudez earned a three-set victory at No. 3 singles as one of two Lumberjack wins on the day. NMSU has won the last seven matches since NAU last won in 2005 and the Aggies own a 22-4 all-time series advantage over the Lumberjacks.
NAU will then take on UT-Arlington for the second year in a row in Las Cruces. The Mavericks defeated the Lumberjacks last season, 6-1, with NAU only claiming a win at No. 6 singles. This year, UT-Arlington is 1-3 entering the weekend with its lone win coming against Cameron, 6-1. Its three losses though have all been to nationally-ranked squads in No. 67 TCU, No. 18 Baylor and No. 15 Texas. The Lumberjacks are 0-4 all-time versus the Mavericks.
Both of the weekend matches will be played at New Mexico State's Tennis Complex. The Lumberjacks will play the Aggies at 1 p.m. on Friday followed by the Mavericks on Saturday at 10 a.m.