FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. –The Northern Arizona men's tennis team heads to Tucson on Saturday for their season opener against No. 55 Arizona in search of their first victory over the Wildcats since 1980. The Lumberjacks are just 1-17 all-time versus their in-state rival, including a 7-0 loss to them last season.
"We always look forward to playing UA," said director of tennis Kim Bruno. "It's always hard to beat them, but we're sure going to try. It'll be interesting to see how we match up against them, where we need to make our adjustments, where we're weak and where we're strong and move forward from there."
Although David Flodberg was the lone graduating senior from last year's team, the Lumberjacks also lost Hugo Ramadier, who transferred to James Madison. Both Ramadier (first team) and Flodberg (second team) were All-Big Sky selections in 2011.
2011 All-Big Sky honorable mention selection Robin Pezzutto is back for his senior season though, headlining seven returning players from last year's 9-12 squad that finished runner-up in the Big Sky for the second consecutive season. Pezzutto posted a 9-10 record at the No. 3 singles position. Among the Lumberjacks other returning players are junior Patrick Schimmelbauer, sophomore Dominic Bermudez and senior Josh Brown, last season's primary No. 2, 5 and 6 singles players.
Doubles specialist senior Ben Lantz is also back for NAU after going 8-4 in doubles matches last season. In addition to juniors Chris Fasulo and Josh Levinson, three newcomers join the program in 2012 in junior transfers Shaun Waters and Robert Martin and the team's lone freshman, Steven Say. Waters, a transfer from Middle Tennessee State, had an impressive NAU debut in the fall, tying for the team-high in singles wins (five) with Bermudez and doubles wins (eight) with Pezzutto.
"We're a really deep team this year," Bruno said. "We're pretty even one through six. The guys can flip around and play a lot of different positions. At the end of the day though, it's not going to be about the wins and losses because in a way this is our preseason to get us ready for conference. It'll be a test, but I think we're up for it though."
The Wildcats finished 9-14 last season and lost its top player Andres Carrasco, a 2011 Pac-10 All-Conference honorable mention, to graduation. Arizona does return five players, including four sophomores that saw considerable action last season. Sophomore Mario Urquidi highlights the five returning players following a 13-win season. Freshman Carlos Bermudez is one of four Wildcat newcomers this year and also is Dominic Bermudez's younger brother.
The match will be played at 11 a.m. on Saturday at the Tucson Country Club.