FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona Men's Tennis program remains the only undefeated team in the Big Sky conference at 6-0. The Lumberjacks are in first place after garnering two more conference victories over opponents Weber State 4-3 and Idaho State 7-0. After a tough match against the Wildcats, the Lumberjacks picked up their third sweep of the season against the Bengals. Northern Arizona is currently 10-6 overall going into this weekend's match-ups. The 'Jacks will compete against the University of Nevada Wolf Pack and the Sacramento State Hornets, April 1 and April 2, respectively.
"We have been improving all season and it is great to see the progress," Director of Tennis Ki Kroll said. "We need to continue building on this momentum."
The Lumberjack squad has accumulated 21 doubles wins and 52 singles wins so far this season. Sophomore Tim Handel and Ruben Montano are leading the 'Jacks in both singles and doubles pairing to go undefeated in doubles at 5-0. In singles, Handel is 6-0 in conference with 11 total wins. Montano follows closely behind his doubles partner at 5-1 in conference with 8 total wins.
"Going into this weekend, we just need to compete and give our best effort," said Kroll.
Nearly two weeks have passed since the Lumberjacks competed on the road. In that time, the 'Jacks have won five straight home matches. Despite the recent string of play in Flagstaff, Northern Arizona is all too familiar with travel after starting with an 11-match stretch on the road at the beginning of the season. This weekend the Lumberjacks will first face Nevada before heading to California, the following day, to take on Sac State. Both matches are set for 11 a.m.
- 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.
- On March 28, Ruben Montano joined Lucas Taylor and Tim Handel in receiving a Big Sky Player of the Week honor this season.
Match Day: Saturday, April 1
Match Time: 11 a.m.
Match Location: Reno, Nev.
A member of the Mountain West, the Nevada Wolf Pack is 5-6 overall and will open conference play at home against Air Force Friday, March 31 before facing the Lumberjacks the following day. The Wolf Pack is coming off a 6-1 win over Sacramento State and a 5-2 win over Saint Mary's. The 12-man roster includes freshman Kostya Nesterenko, who leads the team in singles wins with 14, and juniors Robert Margitfalvi and Peter O'Donovan who pair for seven doubles wins. The last time Nevada and Northern Arizona competed against each other, the Lumberjacks won 5-2 at home. This balanced Nevada squad is led by head coach Sylvain Malroux. After facing the 'Jacks, the Wolf Pack will host New Mexico April 2 at noon.
Match Day: Sunday, April 2
Match Time: 11 a.m.
Match Location: Sacramento, Calif.
The Hornets are currently 5-2 in conference and 7-10 overall going into this weekend. Sacramento State will host this weekend, first against Drexel March 30 at 1 p.m. and then the Lumberjacks. In singles, sophomore Mikus Losbergs leads the Hornets with 10 wins. In doubles, Sac State is led by juniors Christopher Clayton and Kasparas Zemaitelis who pair for five wins. The Hornets are coming off of two losses to Nevada and Yale and have just three conference opponents to face after NAU. Last season, Sacramento State lost to Northern Arizona 6-1. This 8-man roster is led by head coach Slava Konikov, who is in his 12th season with the men's tennis program.
For the final time this season, the Lumberjacks will return home to host in the Aquatic and Tennis Complex. The 'Jacks will compete against Portland State Saturday, April 8 and Eastern Washington Sunday, April 9. Both matches are set for 10 a.m. and will be free for all who attend.
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."