USAFA, Colo. – The Northern Arizona women's tennis team's comeback bid fell just short as Air Force snapped the Lumberjacks' three-match win streak, 4-3, Saturday morning. The loss dropped NAU's record to 3-5 heading into Sunday's Big Sky opener against Northern Colorado.
"Air Force is a very well-coached doubles team," said director of tennis Kim Bruno. "After we lost that doubles point we knew what we had to do and we put ourselves in a position to win four singles matches. In terms of how we played today and how we competed, I can't say anything negative about our team. I asked that they give everything they had and Air Force just took us down today; it shows how crucial that doubles point is."
The Lumberjacks were unable to battle back from the early 1-0 deficit from the doubles point, a deficit that would eventually balloon to 3-0 after the Falcons took the first two singles matches at No. 1 and 2.
With their backs against the wall, NAU's comeback began with sophomore Johanna Vang, who extended her personal career-best singles win streak to five matches at No. 3. After Air Force's Hannah Dake squeaked by Vang in the first set, the sophomore from Sollentuna, Sweden easily took the second and third sets for a 6-7, 6-0, 6-2 win that put NAU on the scoreboard. Needing to win the final three singles matches to win the overall contest, the Lumberjacks were in good shape after winning the first sets at the No. 4, 5 and 6 positions. However, senior Malia Wahinepio fell at No. 4 in three-sets, which would clinch the match for the home team.
Seniors Alice Pacaut and Nicole Perez finished the match off with victories to provide NAU with a singles split, but the doubles point proved to be the difference. While Vang and Pacaut each picked up their team-leading fifth singles victories of the season, Perez has now won her last four matches, which marks her longest win streak since 2011.
"Nicole deserves a lot of credit," Bruno said. "She's really turned it around and she's always been an unbelievably talented player. I know she cares a lot about this team and she wants to do well her senior year, so she deserves a lot of credit for what she's been doing recently."
In doubles play, Pacaut and Wahinepio recorded their fourth consecutive doubles win at No. 3 and they now lead the Lumberjacks with a 5-2 record.
The Lumberjacks open Big Sky play on Sunday in Greeley, Colo. at 1 p.m. NAU was picked to finish second in the preseason coaches' conference poll.
1. Melissa Cecil/Hannah Dake (AFA) def. Hannah Stone/Johanna Vang (NAU), 8-4*
2. Christine Molina/Natasha Rizvi (AFA) def. Ghizelene Doballah/Nicole Perez (NAU), 8-1
3. Alice Pacaut/Malia Wahinepio (NAU) def. Gergana Boncheva/Regina Suarez (AFA), 8-5
*Clinched Doubles Point
Order of Finish: (2, 1, 3)
1. Molina (AFA) def. Stone (NAU), 6-3, 6-1
2. Tiffany Tran (AFA) def. Doballah (NAU), 7-5, 6-4
3. Vang (NAU) def. Dake (AFA), 6-7, 6-0, 6-2
4. Rizvi (AFA) def. Wahinepio (NAU), 5-7, 6-3, 6-2**
5. Pacaut (NAU) def. Cecil (AFA), 7-6, 4-6, 1-0 (10-8)
6. Perez (NAU) def. Mary Meyers (AFA), 6-3, 6-2
Order of Finish: (1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 5)