MISSOULA, Mont. – The battle for second place in the Big Sky could not have gotten off to a better start for the Northern Arizona women's tennis team on Sunday. The Lumberjacks swept doubles play for the ninth straight match, but Montana stunned the Lumberjacks by sweeping all six singles matches and denied NAU of its ninth consecutive victory, 6-1. It was NAU's first loss since March 10 and fell to 14-9 overall and 6-2 in the Big Sky with two regular season matches remaining.
"There's no doubt that we were feeling confident after doubles," said director of tennis Kim Bruno. "We played outstanding doubles, setting each other up and attacking. Singles on the other hand, they had too much patience and consistency for us. Hats off to them for sticking with their solid game plan."
Sophomores Hannah Stone and Johanna Vang roared out of the gates and easily claimed an 8-1 victory at No. 1, setting the tone early in doubles in the Lumberjacks' favor. NAU would clinch the doubles point at No. 2, with seniors Ghizelene Doballah and Nicole Perez notching their ninth consecutive victory as a pair, 8-6.
At the No. 3 position, both doubles pairs entered the match on a hot streak. The Lumberjacks' senior duo of Alice Pacaut and Malia Wahinepio were winners of 15 of their last 16 matches, while the Grizzlies' pair of Haley Driver and Precious Gbadamosi was undefeated in 12 matches this spring. With the doubles point already decided, it was Pacaut and Wahinepio who reigned supreme, giving Driver and Gbadamosi their first loss of the season, 8-4.
But all momentum gained in doubles was quickly lost in singles as Montana seized the momentum from the get-go. Laurence Pelchat and Heather Davidson won at the top two positions and put the Grizzlies ahead 2-1, a lead that the home team would not relinquish. Montana would proceed to sweep the remaining four matches in four sets with Wahinepio and Pacaut coming closest to victory at No. 4 and 5, falling by identical 7-5, 6-4 scores.
The two teams had entered play on Sunday tied for second in the conference behind Sacramento State with identical 6-1 marks in conference play. With the victory, Montana earned the tiebreaking edge over NAU for the second seed in the upcoming Big Sky Championship tournament. The top two seeds receive a first round bye in the tournament.
The Lumberjacks return home for their final two matches of the spring in sole possession of third place in the Big Sky. They play just one match this upcoming week as they will host Southern Utah Friday at 9 a.m. at the Enchantment Resort in Sedona. Both of NAU's remaining two home matches will be held at that location.
1. Hannah Stone/Johanna Vang (NAU) def. Heather Davidson/Laurence Pelchat (UM), 8-1
2. Ghizelene Doballah/Nicole Perez (NAU) def. Sasha Carter/Maddy Murray (UM), 8-6*
3. Alice Pacaut/Malia Wahinepio (NAU) def. Haley Driver/Precious Gbadamosi (UM), 8-4
*Clinched Doubles Point
Order of Finish: (1, 2, 3)
1. Davidson (UM) def. Stone (NAU), 6-2, 6-2
2. Pelchat (UM) def. Doballah (NAU), 6-4, 6-0
3. Driver (UM) def. Vang (NAU), 6-3, 6-4
4. Carter (UM) def. Wahinepio (NAU), 7-5, 6-4**
5. Gbadamosi (UM) def. Pacaut (NAU), 7-5, 6-4
6. Mackey (UM) def. Perez (NAU), 6-3, 6-2
Order of Finish: (2, 1, 3, 4, 6, 5)