LAS VEGAS, Nev. – The top-four returners from last year's squad made the trip last weekend to the UNLV Fall Invitational in the Northern Arizona women's tennis team's second tournament of the fall schedule and faced elite competition. Against competition from the host UNLV, Auburn, Long Beach State and South Alabama, the Lumberjacks displayed impressive play on the courts even if it did not show in the results.
"I think we competed really well and we put ourselves in position to win in singles and doubles," said director of tennis Kim Bruno. "We are playing at a higher level as compared to last fall in terms of the returning girls. Did we get the amount of wins that look great? No, but did we compete really well and grow as a team? Yes, I definitely think that."
Sophomore Johanna Vang, NAU's No. 4 singles player last year, competed in the Flight 4 singles draw and posted a team-best two victories over the weekend. Vang notched the team's only victory on the tourney's first day and reached the semifinals of her draw via a three-set win over Ramona Ghermani of South Alabama on Friday. In the semifinals, she would fall to UNLV's Ella Bourchier, but not before battling in her second consecutive three-setter. Vang would wrap up the tournament by defeating Annet Ferenczi-Bako of UNLV on Sunday to finish the tournament with a team-best 2-1 record. All three of her singles matches featured a tiebreaker as did two of her three doubles matches.
The Lumberjacks' No. 1 and 2 players from a year ago, senior Ghizelene Doballah and sophomore Hannah Stone, each picked up a victory on the final day to conclude the tournament with a 1-2 record. Doballah defeated the Rebels' Bourchier, while Stone grinded out a three-set win over Long Beach State's Eva Rodriguez. Senior Malia Wahinepio, NAU's primary No. 3 player in the spring, went 0-3, but was edged out by LBSU's Anna Jeczmionka in three sets on Sunday, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3, in her final match.
"I thought the standout of the weekend was Johanna, to go 2-1 and have the opportunity to win that match that she lost in the tiebreaker," Bruno said. "Hannah was also a standout. She played some of the best girls in the country (at the tournament) and finally turning it around on that last day to pull a match out. Even in doubles, they were in tiebreakers and had match points against those great girls."
Although Stone and Vang were denied a victory in each of their two doubles matches, they were just a tiebreak away from turning the two losses into two wins. Doballah and Wahinepio teamed for a 1-1 record over the weekend, defeating Karolina Rozenberg and Anne-Sophie Willems by an 8-6 score after dropping their first match. Between the four players, not only did they represent the top-four singles player from a year ago, but also the top-two doubles pairings.
NAU swapped doubles partners for the final day of the tournament and earned a split of their two matches. While Stone and Wahinepio lost to Aleksandra Josifoska and Nives Pavlovic of UNLV, Doballah and Vang earned an 8-4 win over Long Beach State's Sarah Cantlay and Ebba Unden.
After competing two weekends in a row, the Lumberjacks will take this weekend off from fall tournament play in preparation for the ITA Mountain Regional Championships which will be held once again in Las Vegas. The regional tourney will run from Oct. 10-14.