April 5, 2012

Men's Tennis Heading to Idaho, Eastern Washington This Weekend

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona men's tennis team is off to the Pacific Northwest this weekend as they look to snap its six-match losing streak when they play Idaho in Moscow, Idaho on Friday and Eastern Washington in Cheney, Wash. on Sunday. The Lumberjacks will be in search of their first win since defeating Western Illinois, 7-0, on March 17 as they aim to improve their 4-14 overall record and 1-5 conference mark this spring.

The Lumberjacks are coming off a 0-3 weekend in New Mexico with losses to No. 50 New Mexico, New Mexico State and UT Arlington. Despite the three losses though, the team saw improvement in their play.

"We haven't given up by any means," said director of tennis Kim Bruno. "We've gotten back to work and we're trying to pump up our energy level. We obviously have the talent and we just need to bring it. We need another win in conference; we're definitely not giving up."

Despite the three losses last weekend, the team saw improvement in their play. In particular, sophomore Dominic Bermudez continued to play well at No. 3 singles, earning the team's only point against the nationally-ranked Lobos with a three-set win and following that up with yet another three-set victory against New Mexico State. Although his six-match win streak came to an end against UT Arlington, Bermudez has won eight of his last 12 matches dating back to Feb. 25 with half of those victories of the three-set variety. Entering this weekend, Bermudez leads the team with a 10-8 record, which is a new career-high for him after he posted nine wins as a freshman last season.

The Lumberjacks also received singles wins from senior Robin Pezzutto against New Mexico State at No. 1 and freshman Steven Say against UT Arlington at No. 6 last weekend. Pezzutto has really hit a stride as of late with three of his four victories this season coming since the Western Illinois match in mid-March. Say on the other hand notched his first career win versus the Mavericks, which prevented a UT Arlington sweep.

This weekend, the Lumberjacks' first foe will be Idaho. The Vandals, 10-13 overall, will be playing their first and only home match of the season after spending nearly three months on the road, including matches in Las Cruces, N.M. where NAU played New Mexico State and UT Arlington. Idaho defeated both teams there and halted their seven-match losing skid in the process. NAU owns the 11-4 all-time edge over Idaho, but has not played them since a 5-2 defeat in 2008.

Following Friday's match, the Lumberjacks will resume Big Sky play against Eastern Washington in their second-to-last conference match of the season. The Eagles are currently in third place in the standings with a 3-1 conference record and are 9-7 overall. They've been led by Chad Henninger, who's second in the conference in wins with an 11-3 singles record, playing primarily as the No. 4 player in the Eastern Washington lineup. He's also paired with Julian Sanchez as the Eagles' leading doubles duo with an 8-4 record. The Lumberjacks are 7-3 all-time against the Eagles and have won the last three meetings between the two schools.

The Idaho match to kick off the weekend will begin at 3 p.m. at the Vandals' outdoor courts, weather permitting. If the weather does not permit to be played outdoors, the match will then be moved to Lewiston, Idaho and will follow the Idaho women's match at 1 p.m.