MISSOULA, Mont. – After narrowly losing the doubles point, Northern Arizona rallied to win four singles matches and defeat Montana, 4-3, on Saturday morning at the Peak Racquet Club. The Lumberjacks clinched a berth in the Big Sky championship and positioned themselves to enter the postseason tournament as the second seed. NAU is now 11-9 overall and 6-1 in conference play, while Montana dropped to 11-11 and 6-2 in the Big Sky.
The Lumberjacks can clinch the second seed in the Big Sky championship with a win on Sunday at Montana State. Sacramento State has won the Big Sky regular season title with a perfect 8-0 record, while Montana and Montana State have also clinched berths to make up the four-team field. The conference championship begins next Saturday in Bozeman, Mont.
For just the second time this season in conference play, the Lumberjacks would come up short of the doubles point to open Saturday's match. The NAU duo of seniors Orsi Golovics and Edit Suhajda got the Lumberjacks off to a good start with an 8-2 win at No. 1, but Montana would respond with an 8-4 win at No. 2. The No. 3 doubles match would go to a tiebreak, with Montana's Amanda Bran and Constance Alexander outlasting NAU senior Aimee Oki and sophomore Nicole Perez, 9-8 (5), to give the Grizzlies the early lead.
Suhajda opened singles play with a dominant 6-0, 6-0 whitewash of Grizzly senior Rebecca Bran at No. 1 while Oki was nearly as impressive with a 6-1, 6-0 win at No. 6. Montana earned close wins at No. 2 and 5, but the Lumberjacks would get matching 6-4, 6-0 wins from senior Yumi Hasegawa at No. 3 and sophomore Malia Wahinepio at No. 4 to get NAU past the Grizzlies, 4-3.
Sunday's regular season finale at Montana State begins at 8 a.m.