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April 15, 2010

Women’s Tennis to Host Sacramento State for Regular Season Title

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Both undefeated at 7-0 in conference play, Northern Arizona and No. 54 Sacramento State are set to meet on Saturday for the Big Sky regular season championship and the top-seed in next week's Big Sky Championship. The two teams have dominated Big Sky play all season long and have met in the conference championship final in each of the last-four seasons. First serve will be at 10 a.m. with free admission at Flagstaff Athletic Club East. The match is also the final home event for NAU Athletics during the 2009-10 school year.

"This is what we've worked for all season. The girls are extremely excited about hosting the Hornets for the regular season title," director of tennis Kim Bruno said. "Playing at home, at elevation, is definitely a great opportunity for us. We've put in the work, so now we just have to go out there and execute."

Both teams have been nearly perfect against the other seven teams in the Big Sky. NAU is 34-8 in Big Sky singles matches, while Sacramento State is an astounding 41-1 in conference singles play. The Hornets are also 20-1 in conference doubles matches, with NAU not far behind at 18-3 in Big Sky doubles. Sacramento State has 7-0 wins over every conference team except Montana State (a 6-1 victory) and has won 69 consecutive Big Sky matches dating back to 2002. The Hornets have won eight-consecutive Big Sky regular season and postseason titles, including wins over NAU in four-straight Big Sky Championship final matches.

Meanwhile, NAU has cruised through conference play and perhaps is poised to defeat the Hornets for the first time since 2001. Four Northern Arizona players have reached double-digit singles wins, led by junior Yumi Hasegawa and freshman Malia Wahinepio with 13 victories apiece. Junior Edit Suhajda is a combined 11-3 at No. 1 and 2 singles and earned Big Sky Athlete of the Week honors following a pair of conference wins last weekend at the top of the Lumberjack lineup. Freshman Nicole Perez is 12-5 in her rookie campaign while junior Orsi Golovics is 9-5 at No. 1 and 2 but is sidelined with an ankle injury. All three primary NAU doubles teams have also reach double-digit wins, with Perez and junior Aimee Oki leading the way at 12-3 for the year.

Sacramento State's three-time defending Big Sky Player of the Year Katrina Zheltova has not played since February 28 but is still ranked No. 27 in the country. Sophomore Tatsiana Kapshai has stepped in at No. 1 singles and is 15-6 overall and 7-0 in conference play atop the Hornets lineup. Freshman Rebeca Delgado is 14-3 playing behind Kapshai while the pair has combined to go 10-2 in doubles play. While Sacramento State will be the first ranked opponent to face NAU this season, the Hornets have played nine matches against other ranked teams and have wins over No. 56 UC Irvine, No. 60 San Diego, No. 61 Colorado and No. 72 Oregon in addition to narrowly losing to No. 19 Washington, 4-3.

"Our goal all season was to be undefeated at this point and have a chance to play Sac State for the championship. It's really been our goal for many years now," added Bruno about the long-standing rivalry between the teams. "How the scheduling worked out is really exciting. We have nothing to lose; we're just going to go out there and play. I know its going to be a great match no matter what happens."

DID YOU KNOW…Northern Arizona finished third in the Sterling Savings Bank Presidents Cup recognizing academic and athletics performances in 2008-09. The award is based on team grade point averages, graduation rates and the number of all-conference performers with a grade point average above a 3.0, as well as Men's and Women's All Sports points.