FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The last time the Northern Arizona men's tennis team was on the court, they had just lost their third match of the weekend and second consecutive conference match to drop to 2-6 overall and 1-2 in the Big Sky. But after a week off from competition, the Lumberjacks head to Las Vegas, Nev. for three tough matches beginning on Friday against No. 73 Ball State before wrapping up the weekend against host school UNLV and Utah State.
Two weeks ago, the Lumberjacks opened up the weekend with a 6-1 loss at Utah, and then dropped consecutive matches against Big Sky opponents, 6-1 at Weber State and 4-3 at Idaho State.
"It was tough, no one wants to lose like that," said assistant coach Joseph Heckley. "In a way though, it was good for us because it showed what we need to work on. It showed we need to work on our doubles because getting the doubles point is huge. It sets the tone for the rest of the match and the team that wins the doubles point has all the momentum. Now that we had last weekend off, we can put what we worked on into match situations against really good teams and it'll only be good for us in the future in conference matches."
The Lumberjacks have dropped the doubles point in each of their four losses during their current four-match losing streak. Not coincidentally, in their two wins, they claimed the doubles point.
Despite the disappointing team play two weeks ago, the Lumberjacks did receive solid play from junior Patrick Schimmelbauer. Schimmelbauer went 2-1 in singles play and showed great resolve with all three of his matches going to three sets. In each of the matches, he dropped the first set, but forced a third set by winning the second, coming away with two singles wins against Utah and Idaho State. Senior Robin Pezzutto also broke out of his season-opening slump by winning his first match of the season against Idaho State, giving the Lumberjacks their first win at No. 1 singles this spring.
"Pat definitely played really well," Heckley said. "He's stepping it up and that's good to see. Pezzutto also came out with a win at No. 1 and that's only going to give him confidence throughout the rest of the season. He's that type of player that needs that one win to get rolling. He's got the confidence now and I expect him to do well this weekend."
Play begins this weekend first with a neutral site match against the nationally-ranked Cardinals. Ball State recently had their 11-match winning streak snapped by Michigan State, but still post an 11-3 record this season. Ray Leonard leads a strong Ball State lineup, which features four players with at least seven singles wins this spring, with an 11-3 record and a 7-1 mark at No. 2.
UNLV is just 4-8 this season, but they have played against seven nationally-ranked teams this season. The Rebels are coming off a 4-3 win over Air Force in their conference opener and are led by Alex Bull, who has a 6-6 record this season between the No. 2 and 3 spots in the lineup.
The Lumberjacks final opponent of the weekend will be Utah State, winners of four of their last five matches, sit at 4-5 after dropping their four first matches this spring. Marcus Fritz has been the top Aggie with a 5-1 mark, 4-1 at No. 2, while Sven Poslusny is 4-5 at No. 1.
"This weekend we've got tough matches, we have nothing to lose," Heckley said. "I want to see us go out there, and be loose and play our game. We were tentative against Weber and Idaho State and we didn't play the way we should've played. We've got a team with a lot of talent and I think we can take it to them for sure."
The Lumberjacks' weekend in Las Vegas commences on Friday against Ball State with first serve scheduled for 11 a.m.