Men's Tennis Looks to Clinch Big Sky Championship Birth on the Road
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Northern Arizona (9-8, 4-2 BSC) ends its regular season with four matches in Washington and Oregon this weekend, including two Big Sky matches which will determine whether the Lumberjacks will advance to the Big Sky Championship. The road trip begins on Friday night at Gonzaga (5-10) before Big Sky matches at Eastern Washington (5-11, 2-2 BSC) on Saturday and Portland State (6-7, 3-2 BSC) on Monday. The trip, and regular season, concludes with a non-conference match against Portland (8-6) on Tuesday.
The Lumberjacks currently sit in third place in the conference behind Weber State (5-1) and Sacramento State (6-1). The Hornets are the only team to have clinched a postseason birth as of yet. With two conference wins this weekend, NAU would clinch at least a third place finish and advance to the four-team Big Sky Championship. One win would likely still put the Lumberjacks into the tournament, though they would need some help, while two losses could eliminate the team from postseason contention. Montana and Eastern Washington have each only played four conference matches thus far and are both 2-2, making the postseason picture fuzzy at best.
Northern Arizona ended a four-match losing streak with a critical Big Sky win over Idaho State last Sunday. After missing two matches, sophomore Andrew Reiff returned to form with a win at No. 1 singles against the Bengals. Junior David Flodberg and freshman Kevin Taylor have each won their last-two matches at No. 5 and 6, while Flodberg remains the only unbeaten Lumberjack in conference play. NAU is 26-10 overall in conference singles matches 12-6 in Big Sky doubles play.
The Bulldogs have lost four-straight matches, with their last win coming at UC Riverside on March 10. They haven't played at home since February 21, when they defeated Northern Colorado 7-0. The team also has a 4-3 win and a 6-1 loss in two matches against Eastern Washington and lost to Montana, 5-2. Senior Roman Dojcak leads the team with a 9-6 overall record.
The Lumberjacks are 2-2 all-time against Gonzaga. The Bulldogs claimed a 4-3 victory the last time the teams met in 2006.
Scouting Eastern Washington
Eastern Washington begins the week tied with Montana for fifth place in the Big Sky but still has four remaining conference matches. The Eagles will host Weber State on Friday and will play at Montana and Montana State next weekend. After a two-match winning streak, Eastern Washington has dropped six-consecutive matches, all on the road. Friday's tilt with Weber State will be the Eagles first home match since March 4. Eastern Washington has used three different players at both No. 1 and 2 singles with senior Nico Riego de Dios leading the team with three wins at No. 1.
NAU is 5-3 in program history against Eastern Washington and ended a three-match losing streak to the Eagles with a 4-3 win last year in Flagstaff.
Scouting Portland State
The Vikings begin the week in fourth place in the Big Sky with a 3-2 conference record. The team hasn't played since a 5-2 home loss to Weber State on March 6, and will play at Sacramento State and UC Davis on Friday and Saturday before retuning home to host the Lumberjacks on Monday. Portland State has played four of its five conference matches at home, recording Big Sky wins over Montana State, Eastern Washington and Northern Colorado. Junior Chris Rice leads the team at No. 1 singles and doubles with junior Sean Eberle.
Northern Arizona had never lost to Portland State in six all-time matches. The Lumberjacks recorded a 7-0 home win over the Vikings last year and a 6-1 win the last time the teams met in Portland in 2008.
Portland lost three matches two weeks ago at the Boise State Invitational to end a seven-match winning streak. The Pilots will play at Sacramento State, Pacific and UC Davis over the weekend before facing NAU on Tuesday. The team is 4-0 against other schools from the Big Sky, including three 7-0 sweeps. Overall, Portland is 7-1 in home matches this season and thus far has played only two road matches. The Pilots top doubles team of seniors Evan Schleining and Filip Zivkovic are currently ranked No. 46 in the nation.
The Lumberjacks are 1-2 all-time against Portland, including a 5-2 loss in the rose city last season. The only Lumberjack win against the Pilots came in 1998.