FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona men's tennis team concludes its season this weekend with home matches in Sedona versus Weber State on Saturday and Portland State on Sunday. Not only will the matches be the final ones for the Lumberjacks this spring, but it will also mark the end of the careers for the team's three seniors, Patrick Schimmelbauer, Robert Martin and Shaun Waters.
The Lumberjacks picked up their first Big Sky victory of the season last Sunday, shutting Southern Utah out, 7-0. With their record at 4-17 and 1-7 in the conference, the team would like nothing more than to finish the season with two more victories and send the seniors out on a high note.
"Getting that W was good for our confidence," said men's tennis assistant coach Joseph Heckley. "We've had a lot of 4-3 losses and that's tough to work with but getting that W that we've been working for does a lot for our confidence. It would be good to win out and Weber and Portland are both tough. We've competed the whole season and there's no reason why we can't beat these two teams."
NAU may have come up short of its goal of returning to the Big Sky Championship tournament, but as a team it has competed throughout the season and a big reason for that has been the play of its senior class.
Schimmelbauer has been a staple at the top of the Lumberjack lineup over the course of his career playing 62 of his 84 career matches at either the No. 1 or 2 singles positions. Schimmelbauer is the only four-year player on the roster and is the last remaining player from the six-man recruiting class that he entered with. The Erkelenz, Germany native with the imposing serve picked up his 30th career singles victory last weekend and has 38 career doubles victories to his name including a team-best 10-2 record this season with junior Dominic Bermudez.
He has followed up a career-year he had last season as a junior with a solid final season this spring. Coming off career-high victories in both singles (9) and doubles (10) a year ago, Schimmelbauer ranks fourth on the team this year with seven singles victories and leads the team with 11 doubles wins for a new career-best.
"There's so many things to take away because it's a whole different experience," Schimmelbauer said. "(This weekend) is going to be mixed feelings. It's been a lot of tennis and trying to balance that with school but it's sad because this is one chapter of my life that's over. It's been a big part of my life. I'll always remember NAU."
The Lumberjacks' Australian duo represents the final two-thirds of the team's senior class. Both Martin and Waters are concluding their second years in a Lumberjack uniform as they entered the program last year.
Martin of Scarborough, Western Australia arrived in Flagstaff via Seminole State College in Oklahoma. Since his arrival, Martin has been a key cog in the NAU lineup filling in at every spot between No. 3 and 6 positions.
After an up-and-down first season in 2012, Martin has hit his stride in 2013 as he has been the team's most consistent player, especially of late. He's won five of his last seven singles matches and four of his last six doubles matches entering the final contests of his career. Martin leads the team with a 10 singles wins this season and is second on the team behind Schimmelbauer with 10 doubles victories, both of which are career-bests.
"It's been a really good experience, definitely better than my first two years," Martin said. "I liked coming to a bigger school, a better team and I got to travel a lot. I knew what to expect because I had a lot of friends at Division I schools and I had a lot of time to think about it. It's gone really quick and it's been really fun."
Waters enjoyed a successful two seasons at Middle Tennessee State and helped the team to an NCAA Tournament appearance as a sophomore. He immediately made an impact in his first season at the Mountain Campus competing primarily as the Lumberjacks' No. 2 singles player as a junior. He earned Big Sky Player of the Week honors last season after a near-perfect weekend in Las Vegas which included a singles victory over his opponent from No. 73 Ball State. Overall, his impression was felt as he finished his first season at NAU second on the team in singles victories.
This season, Waters has rotated with Schimmelbauer between the top-two positions in the lineup after an impressive showing at the USTA/ITA Mountain Regional Championships in October. As an unseeded player, the Melbourne, Australia product upset the 16th-seeded player to advance to the round of 16 in the singles main draw during a 3-1 showing against the region's best competition. He has also resumed his role as one-half of the Lumberjacks' No. 1 doubles pair, playing every match at the top position one year after playing primarily occupying the No. 1 doubles position last year as well.
"I always had the mindset that I wanted to come here (to America) for college," Waters said. "I've had a good time even with transferring to a new school. I feel I've had double the college experience going to two different schools. The whole team is such a close knit group and I've had great fun on and off the court. There's a lot of great memories, the coaches, everything has been a great atmosphere."
With Schimmelbauer and Waters holding down the top of the NAU lineup and Martin being the team's most consistent player, it is easy to see why the three seniors are so important to the team.
"They're a great group of guys and I would say that they were mentors to everyone else," Heckley said. "Especially Pat being here for four years, everyone looks up to him. Shaun and Rob were great additions to our team and they bring a lot of energy and motivation. I know they'll be successful in whatever they choose to do."
The Lumberjacks hope to send their seniors out with a win streak this weekend in Sedona at the Enchantment Resort. Weber State is one of the six teams headed to next week's conference tournament, currently in sixth at 4-4 and has a chance to move up to fifth. The Wildcats are 8-11 this season but all eight victories have come at home. Portland State enters the final week of the season with an identical 1-7 Big Sky record as NAU. The Vikings are 7-12 overall.
NAU will host Weber State at approximately 2 p.m. on Saturday following the women's tennis match between the two schools. The Lumberjacks will then host Portland State at 10 a.m. on Sunday for Senior Day. Both matches are free to attend for all fans.
Regardless of the outcome this weekend, it will be a bittersweet moment for the trio, each of whom are on the verge of closing out the last four years of not only their collegiate careers but the potential beginnings of their lives in the country.
"I think I'll be relieved and shocked that I managed to stay in another country for four years," Martin said. "In the next few weeks when I think about it I'll be sad knowing that it's over and I won't be coming back (to NAU), traveling with the guys but I'm super excited for the next chapter."
Live scoring for both matches will be available here.