FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona women's tennis team returns to action after nearly two weeks off from competition and will jump back into conference play with consecutive home matches against Montana and Montana State Friday and Saturday. Both matches are set for 1 p.m. starts at Continental Country Club. The Lumberjacks will then head down to Phoenix to play No. 72 Oregon on Monday at 11 a.m. to wrap up their three-match weekend.
"It was a definitely well-needed rest for the team with the amount of tennis we'd been playing," said director of tennis Kim Bruno. "Montana is really good this year, it's always tooth and nail battles with them, so that Friday match we have to come out ready to rock and roll. The thing with them is that they'll have a great match one day and a not so great match the next day. The important thing that we have to figure out is how are we going to maintain a good level for us to play great throughout the weekend."
The Lumberjacks are coming off an up-and-down weekend the last time they were on the court, first coming away with a 6-1 win over New Mexico, which was just the second win in program history over the Lobos. In the win, the Lumberjacks took five of the six singles matches in two sets and claimed the doubles point with wins at No. 2 and 3. However, NAU could not carry that momentum into their match against No. 65 Akron, and only came away with a win at No. 2 doubles on the day in a 7-0 loss to the Zips.
Freshmen Hannah Stone and Johanna Vang was the winning NAU pair at No. 2 doubles in both of the matches and the duo leads the team with an 8-4 doubles record. Stone has nine total doubles victories, one with junior Alice Pacaut, to lead the Lumberjacks and is tied for second on the team with Pacaut with six singles wins. Vang is the team-leader there with a 7-6 singles record, splitting time between the No. 4 and 5 spots.
First up this week is Montana, who is 9-5 overall and 3-0 in the conference. The Grizzlies are one of three teams left in the conference with an unblemished conference record. Ashley Mackey heads a productive Grizzlies' lineup, which features five players with seven or more singles wins, with an 11-3 record and leads the conference in singles wins. Although NAU has won the last nine meetings with Montana, it hasn't always been easy, as evidenced by the Lumberjacks' narrow 4-3 wins over the Grizzlies last season, including a five-hour-plus match in the Big Sky Championship semifinals.
The Lumberjacks will then take on Montana State in the second of the back-to-back conference matches on Saturday. The Bobcats are also undefeated in conference play although they've only played one Big Sky match and are 3-6 overall entering the week. Both Ellie Crum and Andrea De La Torre are 4-5 in singles play this season as the top Bobcats. NAU has taken the last three meetings against Montana State.
"We're going to have to dig deep," said junior Malia Wahinepio. "I want to make sure that each and every one of us makes them play. I want them to earn every point from us. It's going to be a battle, this weekend is huge for us and the returning girls know that Montana and Montana State are tough Big Sky schools. We're just going to have to bring it individually and as a team. It'll be a huge advantage for us to be at home."
Finally to wrap up the weekend, the Lumberjacks will head down to the valley to play a neutral-site match against a nationally-ranked Oregon squad, who recently had their five-match winning streak snapped. The Ducks, like Montana, has been strong in singles play with four players with seven wins or more, led by Trudie du Toit who sits at 8-3 entering the week.
The Montana and Montana State matches will wrap up the Lumberjacks' five-game homestand and will be the last two home matches of the season. Their match against Oregon in Phoenix will also be the Lumberjacks' last match of the season in the state of Arizona, with five road matches to close out the spring to follow.