FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – A year ago, the Northern Arizona women's tennis team dropped narrow 4-3 decisions to both New Mexico State and Colorado State. This weekend in Las Cruces, N.M., the Lumberjacks will have the chance to avenge both losses when they battle Colorado State in a neutral match and New Mexico State on its home court at NMSU's Tennis Center this Saturday and Sunday.
"Colorado State and New Mexico State both edged us out last year, so we're really looking forward to a little revenge against both of them," said director of tennis Kim Bruno. "Hopefully the close points and the close matches will go our way this weekend. We're playing at a very high level and it's important for us to maintain this level heading into conference."
NAU played New Mexico State in Las Cruces last year and played the Aggies even in singles play after the Aggies swept doubles play to win the doubles point. With New Mexico State leading 3-2 in the match, a NMSU win at No. 4 singles clinched the match in its favor. When the Lumberjacks took on Colorado State a week later, the match started off on a similar note with CSU winning the doubles point on its home court. But wins from seniors Ghizelene Doballah and Alice Pacaut and sophomore Hannah Stone in three of the first four completed singles matches gave NAU the 3-2 lead heading into the final two singles. However, the Rams pulled out a pair of three-set victories to come from behind and snag victory away from the Lumberjacks.
Heading into this weekend, the story could be different than last year with NAU playing strong doubles as of late. Leading the recent charge that has propelled the Lumberjacks to four wins in their last six matches has been the doubles play of Pacaut and classmate Malia Wahinepio at No. 3 doubles. The pair has won its last six matches and its 7-2 record is not only best on the team, but the seven doubles victories are the most of any doubles duo in the conference. Overall, over their last six matches the Lumberjacks are 12-5 as a team in doubles play after a 3-8 start to the season.
"Making the switch with Malia and Alice (at No. 3) and then Nicole (Perez) and Ghizelene (at No. 2) has helped us tremendously," Bruno said. "It gives us three solid teams now playing at areas that they can win. Malia and Alice have an outstanding record and they're a very aggressive team for a No. 3 team. But it hasn't been just one team; each team has stepped up, clinching matches and doing things at different times and that's what we need."
In singles, the Lumberjacks have won 21-of-35 matches (.600 winning percentage) during their 4-2 stretch over the last two weeks. Senior Nicole Perez, after starting 0-4 this spring, is riding a six-match win streak, while sophomore Johanna Vang had her career-best six-match win streak snapped against Colorado on Monday. Perez, Vang and Pacaut all sport identical 6-4 records to lead the team.
Colorado State is 0-4 this season coming off a 5-2 loss to Big Sky foe Montana on Sunday. Abby Stevens leads the team with a 3-1 singles record in her first collegiate season and is also 3-0 in doubles with Mollie Cooper. The Lumberjacks and the Rams have split their six all-time meetings with Colorado State winning the last two including in 2012. NAU last defeated Colorado State in 1999.
New Mexico State will be playing its first home matches of the season this weekend after six consecutive matches on the road to start the season. The Aggies have dropped their last four matches after their lone win of the season thus far, 5-2 over Weber State, and is currently 1-5. The Lumberjacks are behind in the all-time series with the Aggies owning a 15-9 advantage.
NAU will play Colorado State on Saturday and New Mexico State on Sunday. Both matches will start at 10 a.m.