FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona University Men's Tennis team will head to Colorado for their final two matches before starting conference competition. The Lumberjacks take on the United States Air Force Academy Feb. 25 and Seattle University Feb. 26. Both matches will be played at the Air Force Academy. The 'Jacks are coming off a tough 5-2 loss to the Arizona Wildcats, after their match was pushed a day in advance due to weather. The Lumberjacks are 1-4 overall with their only win over UC Irvine in a close 4-3 match up.
"With us starting conference matches soon, we need to continue building momentum," said Director of Tennis Ki Kroll. "Both matches are very important for us."
The Lumberjacks will start the weekend Saturday at noon against the Air Force Falcons. The Falcons are 3-5 overall and will take on Metro State and Denver Friday, Feb. 24 before facing the 'Jacks the next day. Last year Northern Arizona beat Air Force in a close 4-3 match.
"Air Force has a strong team, and we look to fight for every point," said Kroll. "This year will be no different than last year, when both teams battled to the end. We were fortunate then to get the win, and it will take another strong effort to come out on top."
After the match on Saturday, the Lumberjacks will face the Seattle University Redhawks, Sunday, Feb. 26 at 10 a.m. The last time Northern Arizona took on Seattle they won 6-1 back in 2012, which was the first and only time these two teams met. This weekend will prove challenging for the Lumberjacks as they try to pick up some wins before heading into conference.
- The Lumberjacks finished the 2016 regular season in 3rd place behind Idaho and Weber State.
- As of Jan. 4, sophomore Tim Handel sits at No. 13 in the Mountain Regional singles rankings.
U.S. Air Force Academy
Match Day: Saturday, Feb. 25
Match Time: 12:00 p.m.
Match Location: Air Force Academy, Colo.
The Falcons are currently 3-5 this season and coming off a four-match losing streak against UMKC, Grand Canyon, Michigan State and Army West Point. A member of the Mountain West, Air Force has taken on two Big Sky opponents in Northern Colorado and Montana State, winning both matches 6-1.
The Falcons have a 12-men roster with three Texas-native seniors leading the squad. Last season Air Force went 7-18 overall and 2-5 in conference, garnering a sixth-place finish. Led by head coach Dan Oosterhous, the Falcons are looking to break their losing streak.
Match Day: Sunday, Feb. 26
Match Time: 10:00 a.m.
Match Location: Air Force Academy, Colo.
The Redhawks are coming off a 6-1 loss to Idaho and are currently 7-7 overall this season. Seattle is familiar with the Big Sky conference, playing against Eastern Washington, Montana State, Portland State, Idaho State and most recently Idaho. The Redhawks have only faced NAU once before and lost 6-1; however, they are 3-4 against Big Sky opponents so far this season.
Seattle will first face Colorado College and Air Force, Saturday, Feb. 25 before taking on the Lumberjacks the following day. Led by head coach Adam Reeb, Seattle competes in the WAC conference.
The Lumberjacks finally start conference play for the first time this season after seven road matches. Northern Arizona will face both Montana and Montana State next weekend. Match time against the Montana Grizzlies is set for March 4 at 10 a.m. The 'Jacks will then face the Montana State Bobcats March 5 at 10 a.m. Both matches will be on the road.
This fall, NAU competed in five tournaments at the University of Arizona, ITA All-American Championships in Tulsa, Okla., University of New Mexico, ITA Mountain Regionals in Las Vegas, Nev. and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Nearly all the Lumberjacks saw preseason action with standout sophomore Tim Handel leading in singles and pairing with transfer Sebastian Eguez in No. 1 doubles. The sophomore went into the ITA Mountain Regionals No. 17 and upped his ranking after his impressive run to the quarterfinals. Now ranked No. 13, Handel became the first athlete in school history to receive a singles ranking in men's tennis in at least 15 years. Felix Schumann and Lucas Taylor also proved ready for this season after winning more than a combined six singles wins. In doubles, Thomas Fisher paired with Handel and Adi Zilberstein for a combined seven wins.
"We have a very deep team this year, so I'm looking forward to season," said Kroll. "We are young and last year was a learning experience for us, but this year I know we are ready to take things to the next level, especially after the fall season we had."