FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona women's tennis team took care of business last Sunday at home and will head east this weekend for a pair of matches against unfamiliar opponents before returning home for five of its final seven matches of the spring. For the first times in program history, the Lumberjacks will play St. Cloud State on Friday and first-year Big Sky opponent North Dakota on Saturday as they look to climb above the .500 mark for the first time this season.
"We're playing good tennis right now and we're at the point where we know what to do to finish the season strong," said director of tennis Kim Bruno. "This weekend is pivotal going off to a new environment out there against a new conference team. The team is excited for the new opportunity."
The Lumberjacks picked up 7-0 victories over Portland State and Valparaiso on Sunday to move to 8-8 on the season and 2-0 in the conference play in their home-opening doubleheader. NAU was perfect in its triumphs as it swept all six doubles and 12 singles matches between its two matches. The Lumberjacks did not drop more than three games in any of their six doubles matches and won all 12 singles matches in straight-sets without dropping more than three games in any set.
"Last weekend was very important for our confidence," Bruno said. "Any time you compete and you have the opportunity to win 7-0, I think you get stronger mentally and physically as a team."
In the process of picking up their second and third 7-0 victories of the spring, the Lumberjacks received contributions from their entire lineup. Senior Nicole Perez became the first Lumberjack to reach double-digit singles victories and is one of four players in the conference with at least 10 wins as she improved to 10-6 this spring last weekend. In all, five of the Lumberjacks' six starters have at least seven singles wins as NAU is the only team in the Big Sky that can lay claim to that entering the week.
NAU also houses two of the conference's top-four doubles pairs in terms of wins. Seniors Alice Pacaut and Malia Wahinepio have won 10 of their last 11 matches at No. 3 doubles and continue to lead the Big Sky with an 11-3 record. Sophomores Hannah Stone and Johanna Vang are one of three duos with at nine wins and are 9-6 as the Lumberjacks' No. 1 team after victories in four of their last six.
The Lumberjacks will first make the trip to Sartell, Minn. to play St. Cloud State on Friday at 12:30 p.m. Despite two consecutive losses, St. Cloud State is 10-7 this season. The Huskies opened the season with wins in five of their first six matches and spearheaded by their quartet of players who occupy the top-four spots in the lineup. Cassandra Brown, Katie Kotschevar, Maribelle Siegfried and Hanna Kantor each have double-digit singles victories with Siegfried owning a team-best 12-3 mark.
A contest with North Dakota in Grand Forks, N.D. follows on Saturday at 7 a.m. UND will be back at home for the first time since Feb. 2 but is just 3-10 overall and 0-4 in the conference in its inaugural Big Sky season. North Dakota snapped its eight-match losing streak with a doubleheader sweep, which included a 9-0 win over St. Cloud State, on Feb. 23 but has since lost a pair of conference matches at Eastern Washington and Portland State. Stephanie Petsis is 8-5 at No. 1 singles, which leads the team, and her eight wins at the top position is tied for the most in the Big Sky.
If the Lumberjacks are able to defeat both St. Cloud State and North Dakota this weekend, they will secure their eighth consecutive double-digit win campaign. The eight straight double-digit win seasons would be the longest such stretch in program history snapping a tie with a seven-season streak from 1994-2000.