FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Despite winning the doubles point, the Northern Arizona men's tennis team dropped a heartbreaker to Montana State on Saturday, falling 4-3 to the Bobcats at Continental Country Club. The loss was the Lumberjacks' first this season when taking the doubles point, as NAU suffered their fourth conference loss to fall to 1-4 in the Big Sky and 4-10 overall.
"Champions rise the occasion under pressure and unfortunately our team didn't," said director of tennis Kim Bruno. "We didn't come up with the big points. In doubles we struggled with some things, but in the end we overcame them which was good to see. What we're missing is that tennis individually is a team sport in college, so it's great that one or two guys played well but it's not getting the job done for us."
After dropping the first doubles at No. 1, the Lumberjacks stormed back with a win at No. 2 to even doubles play when sophomore Dominic Bermudez and junior Patrick Schimmelbauer rallied to defeat Niklas Brandes and Markus Schleuter, 8-6, after being down early in the match. The Lumberjacks then clinched the doubles point with a win at No. 3 courtesy of junior Robert Martin and senior Robin Pezzutto by an identical 8-6 score.
This led to singles play, which was tightly contested throughout as four of the six singles matches went to three sets, including two which included two tiebreakers to determine sets in each. The Bobcats snagged a win at No. 1 to tie the team score up, but Bermudez responded with his third straight singles win, defeating Alberto Fuentes, 6-4, 6-3, at No. 3 to put NAU back on top. Junior Shaun Waters and Schimmelbauer then narrowly lost three-setters in the next two singles matches and as a result the Bobcats pulled back into the lead, 3-2.
Senior Ben Lantz then pulled out a critical three-set victory at No. 6 in his second to last home match of his career to send the match into a winner-take-all at No. 5. There, Martin took the first set in a tiebreaker, but then dropped the second set to Lander Jewett to force a third set with the team match on the line. The third set would once again go to a tiebreaker, where Martin would fight off three match points to force a win-by-two situation before dropping the final two points, securing the victory for the Bobcats. It was Martin's second match this week that went to three-sets and featured two tiebreakers, both of which he narrowly came out on the short end.
"I felt like I had a good chance and I won the first set in a tiebreaker," Martin said. "I played the last few games going into the final tiebreaker and we both had our chances. It was an even match, but it's pretty disappointing to lose two of these matches this week."
The Lumberjacks will host their final home match of the season on Sunday against Montana at 12 p.m. at Continental Country Club. They will look to send their two seniors, Lantz and Pezzutto, out with a victory on Senior Day in a must-win conference match.
1. Alberto Fuentes/Lander Jewett (MSU) def. Trevor Unger/Shaun Waters (NAU), 8-5
2. Dominic Bermudez/Patrick Schimmelbauer (NAU) def. Niklas Brandes/Markus Schleuter (MSU), 8-6
3. Robert Martin/Robin Pezzutto (NAU) def. Diego Campos Contreras/Javier Martin-Morillas (MSU), 8-6*
*Clinched Doubles Point
Order of Finish: (1, 2, 3)
1. Brandes (MSU) def. Pezzutto (NAU), 6-1, 6-3
2. Schleuter (MSU) def. Waters (NAU), 1-6, 7-5, 6-3
3. Bermudez (NAU) def. Fuentes (MSU), 6-4, 6-3
4. Campos Contreras (MSU) def. Schimmelbauer (NAU), 6-7 (3-7), 7-6 (7-4), 6-1
5. Jewett (MSU) def. Martin (NAU), 6-7 (3-7), 6-4, 7-6 (8-6)**
6. Lantz (NAU) def. Martin Morillas (MSU), 6-1, 1-6, 6-3
Order of Finish: (1, 3, 2, 4, 6, 5)