FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Coming off a 7-0 defeat of Western Illinois in its home opener, the Northern Arizona men's tennis team will host Sacramento State in the first of three critical conference matches this week on Wednesday at 11 a.m. in the University Fieldhouse. The Hornets have won the past three Big Sky championships and four of the last five, and are one of four remaining unbeaten teams in conference play, while NAU currently sports a 1-2 Big Sky record, 4-8 overall.
"We definitely needed that win against Western Illinois in order for us to feel a little more confident going into this week," said director of tennis Kim Bruno. "Unfortunately we have those two conferences losses, but I think the guys are a little more mentally prepared than we have been. We're fired up. If we're going to have a shot against Sacramento State it's going to be here at home."
In their 7-0 win on Saturday against the Leathernecks, the Lumberjacks swept all six singles matches in straight sets and took two of the three doubles matches to claim the doubles point. The Lumberjacks dropped just one game in their two doubles wins, with junior Robert Martin and senior Robin Pezzutto winning at No. 2, 8-1, and senior Ben Lantz and freshman Trevor Unger teaming for an 8-0 win at No. 3. The Lumberjacks also won easily at the bottom three singles positions, with Martin, Unger and Lantz each dropping just one game in their respective singles matches.
Junior Shaun Waters did not play in the win, but he still leads the team with a 7-4 singles record. Junior Partick Schimmelbauer is right behind him with six singles wins and sophomore Dominic Bermudez and Martin have five. Waters and Unger has been the top doubles pair with a 3-3 record at No. 1.
The Hornets are just 3-9 overall, with four of their losses coming against nationally-ranked teams, but are 2-0 in the conference with wins against Weber State and Northern Colorado. Marek Marksoo is 7-3 in singles play, 6-2 at No. 5, to lead the team and has teamed with Roy Brandys for a 4-4 doubles record, also best on the team.
The Lumberjacks has fallen to Sacramento State in the Big Sky Championship final in each of the last two years and last beat the Hornets in 2010, which is the last time the two teams competed in Flagstaff.
At 1-2 in the conference, the Lumberjacks begin a critical week of conference matches, with Montana State and Montana following later this weekend, if they hope to qualify for the Big Sky Championship yet again.
"We have to win out at home this week," Bruno said. "We have to set a good tone starting tomorrow to feel good about the rest of the weekend. Win or lose tomorrow, it's important that we set a good tone to move forward."