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Freshmen Tandem Leads Women's Tennis into Three-Match Weekend

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona women's tennis team (2-4, 1-0 BSC) enters a tough weekend beginning on Friday at No. 20 Arizona State with two conference road matches to follow at Weber State and Idaho State, all in three consecutive days. This weekend's three matches in three days will be the Lumberjacks' second such stretch this season, with NAU recording a 1-2 mark the first time around two weeks ago.

The Lumberjacks are coming off a weekend filled with mixed results, which included their first conference win, 5-2 over Northern Colorado, but also a tough 4-3 loss to Colorado State. Although NAU compiled an 8-4 record in singles matches last weekend, the Lumberjacks put themselves in a 1-0 hole in both matches by not claiming the doubles point in either match, recording just one doubles win in the process.

"We definitely need to work on our doubles because we need that crucial doubles point," said freshman Johanna Vang. "We played excellent tennis against Northern Colorado in terms of singles, but against Colorado State it came down winning the crucial points in both singles and doubles. We just need to be able to win those close matches."

While each of the six Lumberjacks earned at least one singles win last weekend, Vang and her doubles partner Hannah Stone, the only two freshmen on the team, have been impressive to start their careers. Vang and Stone lead the team with a 4-2 doubles record at the No. 2 spot, with three of their wins coming by an 8-2 score or better.

"Hannah and I know each so well in doubles," Vang said. "We have a good attitude and a high energy level. We always want to win; we hate losing. I think that's what's made us successful."

The two freshmen also are tied for the team-lead with junior Ghizelene Doballah with three singles wins apiece. Stone in particular has recently found her footing in singles play with three straight wins after beginning the season 0-3.

"I started the season kind of shaky," Stone said. "I was emotional out there and then that last match (two weeks ago) at New Mexico State, I relaxed and tried to have fun. I had a really good match and I think I'm in my groove now. I'm excited to keep improving this season."

The play of Stone and Vang has helped carry the Lumberjacks through their highs and lows early in the 2012 season.

"As freshmen, they've already stepped up as team leaders," said assistant coach Orsi Golovics. "Their attitude and hard work in practice pays off in the matches. I think they motivate everyone else to compete as well."

The No. 20 Sun Devils are 4-1 this season and have not played since a 4-3 win over San Diego on Feb. 5. The Sun Devils are led by Jacqueline Cako, the No. 8 singles player in the nation and No. 1 in the Southwest Region, at the No. 1 singles spot. Cako, a 2011 second team Pac-10 selection, is 5-0 and has dropped just two sets this season. The Lumberjacks have never beaten their in-state opponent in 14 all-time meetings.

NAU will then resume conference play at Weber State on Saturday and at Idaho State on Sunday. Both teams have struggled to open the season as the Wildcats are 0-7 and the Bengals are 0-2 to begin the spring schedule. The Lumberjacks will look to continue their recent dominance over their two conference foes, having won their last five meetings with Weber State and their last 17 meetings with Idaho State.

"It's going to be a tough weekend starting with ASU," Golovics said. "Unfortunately we've always lost to them, but hopefully we'll start on a high level against ASU and then carry that level into our two conference matches."

Friday's match will be NAU's second trip down to Tempe this spring, following their season-opening loss to UC Davis at the ASU courts. The match with the Sun Devils to kick off the weekend will begin at 11 a.m. at the Whiteman Tennis Center.