SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Northern Arizona women's tennis team clinched the critical doubles point and claimed three singles victories to defeat Montana State, 4-1, in Friday's Big Sky Championship quarterfinals. With their tournament-opening win, the Lumberjacks advance to Saturday's semifinal match versus Montana at 2 p.m. at the Gold River Racquet Club.
"It was a team effort today and we played solid as a team," said director of tennis Kim Bruno. "I saw the girls dig for one another and I saw what it meant for our seniors. We're going to celebrate this victory tonight and be even more positive tomorrow. We just have to believe in what we've accomplished this year and believe in each other as a team. I saw that today and if we continue that tomorrow, the match can go either way."
The No. 6 seed Bobcats may have sent a jolt to the No. 3 seed Lumberjacks to begin the match. NAU had entered Friday's quarterfinal match as winners of its last 32 doubles matches and had swept doubles play in 11 consecutive team contests. However, the Bobcats snapped the streak and stole a victory at No. 1 doubles. Down a match in the best-of-three doubles competition, the Lumberjacks received a much-needed victory at No. 2 when seniors Ghizelene Doballah and Nicole Perez evened doubles play with an 8-5 victory. NAU then picked up the doubles point courtesy of seniors Alice Pacaut and Malia Wahinepio's 8-5 victory at No. 3 doubles.
Perez increased the Lumberjacks' lead to 2-0 when she opened up singles play with a 6-1, 6-0 victory at No. 6. The victory was Perez's 19th of the season, equaling the school record for singles wins in a season. But the Bobcats clawed back within one point when Charlotta Hjalmarsson defeated sophomore Hannah Stone, 6-1, 6-2, at No. 1.
Following Montana State's victory at the top position, the Lumberjacks buckled down and clinched the opportunity to play another day in the single elimination conference tournament with wins at No. 5 and 2. Pacaut earned a 6-2, 6-1 win at No. 5 and Doballah sealed up NAU's quarterfinal victory with a 6-1, 6-4 triumph at No. 2. At the time the match was decided, sophomore Johanna Vang was locked in a three-set battle at No. 3 and Wahinepio was two games away from winning at No. 4.
The Lumberjacks, now 17-9 this season, will face second-seeded Montana Grizzlies on Saturday in a semifinal rematch from a year ago. The Grizzlies eliminated the Lumberjacks last season one match shy of the final, 4-2. They also handed the Lumberjacks their only loss in the last six weeks, 6-1, on April 7 in Missoula, Mont. In that match, NAU swept the three doubles matches but was swept in singles play.
Top-seeded Sacramento State will play fifth-seeded Southern Utah in the other semifinal. Southern Utah defeated No. 4 seed Northern Colorado on Friday, 4-1.
1. Charlotta Hjalmarsson/Paulina Lopez Trevino (MSU) def. Hannah Stone/Johanna Vang (NAU), 8-3
2. Ghizelene Doballah/Nicole Perez (NAU) def. Liana Bates/Iva Parapunova (MSU), 8-5
3. Alice Pacaut/Malia Wahinepio (NAU) def. Ellie Crum/Wena Tsan (MSU), 8-5*
*Clinched Doubles Point
Order of Finish: (1, 2, 3)
1. Hjalmarsson (MSU) def. Stone (NAU), 6-1, 6-2
2. Doballah (NAU) def. Parapunova (MSU), 6-1, 6-4**
3. Vang (NAU) vs. Lopez Trevino (MSU), unfinished (MSU leading 4-6, 6-1, 1-0)
4. Wahinepio (NAU) vs. Crum (MSU), unfinished (NAU leading 7-5, 4-0)
5. Pacaut (NAU) def. Tsan (MSU), 6-2, 6-1
6. Perez (NAU) def. Bates (MSU), 6-1, 6-0
Order of Finish: (6, 1, 5, 2)