MISSOULA, Mont. – Northern Arizona won the doubles point and two singles matches, but Montana rallied to win four singles matches, two of them in the third set, in a tightly contested 4-3 Grizzly win on Saturday afternoon in Missoula. The loss dropped NAU to 5-2 in conference play and 7-11 overall, preventing the Lumberjacks from clinching a Big Sky championship berth, while Montana equaled NAU at 5-2 in the Big Sky and improved to 11-7 overall.
The Lumberjacks still control their own destiny, as a win on Sunday at Montana State would clinch a Big Sky championship berth for NAU. Four teams – Northern Arizona, Montana, Montana State and Weber State – are still alive for three available Big Sky championship spots heading into the final day of the regular season. In addition to the Lumberjacks facing the Bobcats, Weber State and Montana will meet in Missoula. If the Lumberjacks lose on Sunday, they could still make the postseason tournament based on other more complicated tiebreak procedures. Sacramento State has secured the top seed in the Big Sky Championship, which begins next Saturday in Bozeman, Mont.
NAU took the early lead on Saturday by claiming the doubles point. After Montana took the match at No. 2, NAU responded with an 8-6 win at No. 1. Northern Arizona junior Ben Lantz and sophomore Patrick Schimmelbauer would outlast Montana's Ben Demarois and Zach Drost, 8-5, to put NAU in the lead.
Montana would get a singles win at No. 3 that was quickly answered with a 6-3, 6-2 win from Lumberjack senior David Flodberg at No. 4. NAU sophomore Hugo Ramadier battled for a 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (5) victory at No. 1, putting the Lumberjacks one win away from the team victory. After Montana's Mikolaj Caruk rallied to defeated Schimmelbauer, 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 at No. 2, the Grizzlies would get a straight-set win at No. 5 to even the match at 3-3. The decision came down to No. 6, where Montana's Cody Kohlmoos would get by Lumberjack junior Josh Brown, 7-5, 1-6, 6-3, to give the Grizzlies the win.
Northern Arizona and Montana State meet Sunday at noon in Bozeman, Mont.