FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - After falling in the Big Sky Championship Final to Sacramento State for the fifth-consecutive year last season, the 2011 Lumberjack squad features a veteran lineup with six returning starters. With four outstanding seniors and pair of All-Big Sky sophomores, the 2011 Lumberjacks will again look to build on their recent success and hope to overcome the Hornets and the rest of the Big Sky to claim a conference title for the first time since 1999.
The Lumberjacks will play at No. 49 Arizona on Friday at noon before playing a neutral site match against UTEP on Saturday at 10 a.m. in Tucson. In addition to their national ranking, the Wildcats also have three players ranked in the top-20 in the ITA Southwest region. The Wildcat duo of Lacey Smyth and Kim Stubbe are also ranked No. 68 nationally in doubles. NAU is winless in 26 all-time matches against Arizona and 8-11 all-time against UTEP, including road losses to both schools last season.
Four seniors, three sophomores and one freshman will comprise the Lumberjack roster, led by a duo from Hungary who have combined for five All-Big Sky first team selections in their outstanding careers. Edit Suhajda received her third All-Big Sky first team selection in as many years last season, leading the Lumberjacks at No. 1 and 2 singles with a 13-6 overall record. She begins the Spring at No. 20 in the ITA Mountain region singles rankings. Fellow senior Orsi Golovics went 6-4 at No. 1 singles last year en route to earning her third All-Big Sky selection.
Other returning seniors include Yumi Hasegawa, who posted a dominant 14-4 singles record last season at No. 4, 5 and 6 singles and earned her first All-Big Sky second team selection in 2010. Aimee Oki became a starter in 2010 and played at No. 3, 4 and 5, posting a 5-3 Big Sky record. After having no seniors on the 2010 roster, the 2011 Lumberjacks will benefit from the vast experience of their four upperclassmen.
A pair of sophomores became immediate starters and contributed immensely as freshmen in 2010. Malia Wahinepio went 13-6 overall and 6-2 in the Big Sky at No. 3 and 4, earning an All-Big Sky second team selection. After dropping her first-four matches as a freshman in 2010, Nicole Perez went on to win 10-straight singles matches, finished the season at 13-6, and garnered an All-Big Sky honorable mention selection. Adding depth to the NAU roster will be sophomore Alice Walker from Australia and freshman Ghizelene Doballah from Algeria.
In addition to posting a team record of 73-43 in singles and a Big Sky singles mark of 35-13 in 2010, the Lumberjacks were also outstanding in doubles. The pair of Golovics and Wahinepio earned a national ITA ranking and the team combined to go 39-19 overall and 19-5 in conference doubles matches.
The Lumberjacks will be challenged early in the non-conference season, opening Spring play with their match against the Wildcats. Other difficult early season matches for the Lumberjacks include a trifecta of matches in Santa Barbara, Calif. and a dual at No. 20 Arizona State. NAU will open Big Sky play and its home schedule on March 5 against Weber State, the first of five home Big Sky matches in 2011.
In road Big Sky play, the Lumberjacks will play at No. 55 Sacramento State on March 27 and conclude the regular season with duals at Montana and Montana State. NAU will hope to return to Bozeman the following week for the Big Sky Championship April 23-24.
NAU was once again picked to finish second in the Big Sky preseason poll, trailing only Sacramento State in the balloting and hoping to overcome the pesky Hornets to nab a Big Sky crown.