Women’s Tennis in Montana on Verge of Big Sky Berth
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – With two regular season contests remaining, the Northern Arizona women's tennis team (10-9, 5-1 BSC) has all but assured themselves of a return trip to the Big Sky Championship. The Lumberjacks are in big sky country to play at Montana (10-10, 5-1 BSC) on Saturday and at Montana State (7-9, 4-2 BSC) on Sunday, with both matches beginning at 9 a.m. local time (8 a.m. in Flagstaff).
Despite being tied for second place in the Big Sky with two matches remaining, NAU has not yet mathematically clinched a postseason berth. The Lumberjacks could clinch before they play on Saturday, however, if Weber State loses to Montana in their match in Missoula on Friday. A single NAU win or Weber State loss this weekend would ensure a spot for the Lumberjacks in the postseason tournament. The Lumberjacks have reached the Big Sky championship final match in each of the last-five seasons, falling each time to Sacramento State. The Hornets have already clinched the Big Sky regular season title and will be the top seed in the Big Sky championship. The top-four teams in the final Big Sky regular season standings advance to the postseason tournament, which will take place next Saturday and Sunday in Bozeman.
NAU has gone 5-1 so far in Big Sky matches, totaling a 29-7 conference singles record and 12-3 Big Sky doubles mark. The Lumberjacks were undefeated in four home matches this season, dropping only one singles match. Four Lumberjacks have reached double-digit singles wins this year, led by a 12-7 record at No. 2 singles from senior Orsi Golovics. Sophomore Malia Wahinepio also has a 12-7 singles record, while seniors Yumi Hasegawa and Aimee Oki have also reached double figures in wins. At 6-0 in conference play, Oki is the only Big Sky player outside of Sacramento State that is undefeated in conference singles matches (minimum five decisions). All-three primary NAU doubles teams have at least eight victories on the season. Despite their success at home and in neutral site contests, NAU is just 1-7 on the road this season.
Montana has all but locked up a Big Sky tournament berth as well, and can officially clinch with a win over Weber State on Friday. The Grizzlies have played only two home matches this season entering the weekend, with home conference wins over Portland State and Idaho State. Montana is 24-12 in conference singles matches this season and 15-3 in Big Sky doubles, led by senior Rebecca Bran and sophomore Constance Alexander. NAU has dominated the all-time series with the Grizzlies at 18-2 and defeated Montana twice last season, including a 4-2 win in the Big Sky championship semifinals.
The Bobcats of Montana State are also closing in on a Big Sky championship berth with a 4-2 mark entering the weekend. MSU will host Weber State on Saturday before facing the Lumberjacks on Sunday. The team has conference wins over Eastern Washington, Northern Colorado, Idaho State and Portland State, with losses to Sacramento State and Montana. The Bobcats are 4-2 at home this season, with sophomore Charlotta Hjalmarsson leading the team at No. 1 singles and doubles. The Lumberjacks are 15-11 all-time versus Montana State but took a 5-2 loss the last time the teams met in Bozeman in 2009.