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Women’s Tennis to Begin Season on Sunday vs. UC Santa Barbara

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - NAU looks to open its Spring season on a high note on Sunday, when the Lumberjacks will face UC Santa Barbara in Tempe at 11 a.m. The match will be the first of four away from Flagstaff to open the season for Northern Arizona, before the Lumberjacks return for their home opener on February 19 against Big Sky-foe Montana State.

For the last four seasons, Northern Arizona's women's tennis team has had its season end in the same place to the same team, falling to Sacramento State in the Big Sky championship final every year since 2006. Fifth-year head coach Kim Bruno will lean on a pair of seasoned juniors to lead the team back to the final, hoping to overcome the Hornets and claim a Big Sky title for the first time since 1999.

Four juniors and four freshmen will comprise the roster, led by a duo of two-time All Big-Sky first team selections from Hungary. Orsi Golovics brings a No. 19 singles ranking in the Mountain region into the 2010 season after posting a 7-7 singles record against premier opposition in the Fall and a 13-6 singles record a year ago. Fellow junior Edit Suhajda was limited in the fall after undergoing offseason surgery, but appears ready to build off a 5-2 Fall record in limited action.

Other returning juniors include Yumi Hasegawa, who posted a dominate 15-6 singles record in 2009 at No. 5 and 6 singles, and Aimee Oki, who will likely enter the starting lineup this season after a 2-1 singles mark in conference play a year ago. With no seniors on the roster, the four returning NAU juniors will be asked to lead the way in 2010.

Amongst the newcomers to the NAU squad, freshman Malia Wahinepio has made the biggest splash thus far on the mountain campus. The native of Anthem, Arizona teamed with Golovics for a 10-2 doubles record in the fall, earning a No. 35 national doubles ranking entering the Spring season. She also went 7-7 in singles play and will be slotted into the starting lineup. Joining Wahinepio as a likely freshman starter will be Fountain Hills native Nicole Perez after the newcomer posted an impressive 9-4 singles record in Fall play. Adding depth to the NAU roster will be freshman Ana Mendes from Brazil.

Like the NAU men, the ladies will also play five of eight Big Sky matches on the road. Home play for the Lumberjacks opens on February 19 against Montana State followed by a February 21 match with Grand Canyon. The Lumberjacks also host Big Sky matches against Montana and preseason No. 58 Sacramento State and a non-conference tilt with Rhode Island. The Ladies went 6-0 at home in 2009, looking to keep the home-court advantage alive in the new decade.

A difficult road schedule includes matches against a pair of Pac-10 foes in Arizona and Washington State. The Lumberjacks open the season with a match against a talented UC Santa Barbara squad in Tempe on January 24, and the ladies will also play tough non-conference road matches at New Mexico State and Utah State out of the WAC, Colorado State of the Mountain West and Gonzaga of the WCC.

NAU was picked to finish second in the Big Sky preseason poll, trailing only Sacramento State in the balloting. The position is a familiar one for a talented Lumberjack squad looking to get by the pesky Hornets to nab a Big Sky crown.