FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona women's tennis team returns to the court on Friday revitalized after a one-week break from competition. The Lumberjacks head to Santa Barbara, Calif. to play UC Santa Barbara at 11 a.m., but the trip to California will be more than competition as they will also use it as an opportunity to train at sea-level in preparation for the remainder of the season.
"UC Santa Barbara is going to be similar to our match against UC Davis, maybe even a little stronger," said director of tennis Kim Bruno. "We know how we need to play, but we have to go out to their home turf and play exceptionally well at every spot as a team. We love going out to California to train too. Obviously our main priority is taking care of business against UC Santa Barbara and then doing a little low-altitude training from there."
The Lumberjacks were off from competition last week as they used the week to recover from a grueling two-day start to the season where they played three matches, two of them against nationally-ranked in-state Pac-12 squads in Arizona and Arizona State. Although they came out without a victory, there were positives to take away beginning with senior Malia Wahinepio. Wahinepio claimed the season's first Big Sky Conference Player of the Week honor after picking up a straight-set win at No. 4 singles against No. 37 Arizona State's Ebony Panoho, bouncing back in a strong way following a tough three-set loss to UC Davis the night before.
Along with Wahinepio, senior Alice Pacaut also notched a singles win two weeks ago, taking down Shayne Austin of No. 29 Arizona in three sets. Wahinepio and Pacaut's victories were the only two for NAU in its first three matches, but the Lumberjacks played competitive tennis throughout the weekend dropping four matches in three-sets including sophomore Hannah Stone's match at No. 1 singles against Desirae Krawczyk of Arizona State, the No. 86 player in the nation.
Stone and sophomore Johanna Vang moved up to the No. 1 spot in the Lumberjacks' doubles lineup and had an impressive start to the 2013 season, compiling a 2-1 record. They earned wins against Arizona and a regionally-ranked pair from UC Davis as they continue to show that they are a force to be reckoned with in doubles.
UC Santa Barbara will be opening its season on Friday following an 11-14 campaign a year ago. The Gauchos, a Big West semifinalist in 2012, return five players including April Scatliffe, who led the team with 14 singles wins playing the majority of the season at the No. 3 and 4 positions. Kiersten Meehan advanced to the singles round of 32 at the USTA/ITA Southwest Regional Championship in October.
The Lumberjacks last played the Gauchos in 2011, dropping a 5-0 match in Santa Barbara. They defeated the Gauchos the year before in Tempe, 4-3, and are 2-5 all-time versus UCSB.
"The girls are pumped to go out there and Santa Barbara is always a nice destination for us," Bruno said. "We've had a week to work on some things in doubles and singles and the team is ready."