BOZEMAN, Mont. – In a match that lasted over five hours and ended at approximately 2:30 a.m. MT Sunday morning, Northern Arizona won the doubles point and needed to rally for a pair of three-set singles wins to overcome Montana, 4-3, in the Big Sky semifinals Saturday in Bozeman, Mont. The Lumberjacks survived to reach the Big Sky title match, where they will face No. 48 Sacramento State for the sixth consecutive season on Sunday at 1 p.m. Arizona time.
The marathon match began quickly, as the Lumberjacks won a pair of doubles matches to take the first point. NAU seniors Orsi Golovics and Edit Suhajda notched a quick 8-3 win at No. 1, while the Lumberjack duo of senior Yumi Hasegawa and sophomore Malia Wahinepio finished off an 8-5 win at No. 2. The Lumberjacks had a 6-3 lead at No. 3 when the point was clinched and doubles play was ended.
To open singles play, Montana's Heather Davidson picked up a win over Wahinepio at No. 4 to even the team score at 1-1. Golovics put the Lumberjacks back on top with a 6-1, 6-2 victory at No. 2 while the Grizzlies responded with a straight-set win at No. 3. The No. 1 match would play to a third set, with Montana senior Rebecca Bran outlasting Suhajda, 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (4), to put the Grizzlies one win away from the team victory.
Montana would take the first set at the No. 5 and 6 matches, but NAU would stage a rally in both. After dropping her first set, 6-1, at No. 6, Lumberjack senior Aimee Oki would battle back to dominate the second and third sets to record an exciting 1-6, 6-2, 6-1 victory. The match would come down to No. 5, where NAU sophomore Nicole Perez would stage a comeback of her own to overcome Grizzly senior Amanda Bran, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, to give Northern Arizona a dramatic 4-3 team victory.
Top-seeded and No. 48 nationally ranked Sacramento State swept Montana State, 4-0, earlier Saturday to advance to the final and play for their 10th consecutive Big Sky championship. The Hornets have swept the Lumberjacks, 4-0, in each of the last-five Big Sky championship final matches. A win on Sunday would give the Lumberjacks their first conference title since 1999 and just their second trip to the NCAA Tournament in program history.