FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Even though the spring 2013 season is still months away, the Northern Arizona women's tennis team is ready to begin competition this weekend when they travel to Las Cruces, N.M. for the Aggie Invitational from Sept. 14-16. The New Mexico State hosted tournament will be one of four tourneys sandwiched around the ITA Mountain Regional Championships that the Lumberjacks will play during the fall season.
"This time of the year is always really exciting when the girls come back from the summer," said director of tennis Kim Bruno. "They're pumped up and ready to see what a new season will bring."
Just one year after losing four starters to graduation, the Lumberjacks return all six starters from the 2011-12 season including four of whom were All-Big Sky Conference selections. Senior Ghizelene Doballah and sophomore Hannah Stone garnered All-Big Sky first team honors, while senior Malia Wahinepio and sophomore Johanna Vang were named honorable mention selections. In all, Bruno boasts a talented roster rich of experience, with the aforementioned six returning starters and a total of five seniors.
The team does have one new addition to the roster though in junior Tatum Rochin. Rochin, a transfer from Pima Community College, joins the Lumberjacks with an impressive two-year resume at PCC in which she helped lead the team to 15th and 16th place finishes at the NJCAA national tournament in 2011 and 2012 respectively. She was also named the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference Player of the Year in 2012.
"Tatum has played really well and she's established herself as someone that will make an impact on our lineup, so that's exciting to see how she does in first tournament this year," Bruno said. "All of the returners are looking to improve where they left off. We're already starting this year at a higher level than we started last year."
"We look at the fall as a way to build for the spring," Bruno said. "I don't necessarily care about wins and losses this weekend. All of the girls know how they want to play and what they're working on individually. If all four players can improve slightly by the end of the weekend, we'll be a step ahead as a team from where we were at the end of last spring."
Following the Aggie Invitational this weekend, the Lumberjacks will play at the UNLV Fall Invitational in Las Vegas from Sept. 21-23. NAU will then make a return trip to Las Vegas for the Mountain Regional Championships from Oct.10-14 before wrapping up fall play at the New Mexico Fall Invite in Albuquerque, N.M. and the Northridge Fall Tournament in Northridge, Calif. during the month of November.