FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Coming off a historical weekend in Albuquerque, N.M. a week ago, the Northern Arizona women's tennis team will play another three matches in three days in the state of Colorado this weekend including the Lumberjacks' Big Sky opener. Bookending NAU's conference opener at Northern Colorado on Sunday, the Lumberjacks will duel with Air Force on Saturday and Pac-12 power Colorado on Monday.
"I have no doubt that we'll be able to play at that same level (from last weekend) or even higher this weekend," said director of tennis Kim Bruno. "We had a breakthrough weekend and the girls are confident. Being on the road playing on teams' home turf with no neutral matches is a little more difficult, but I think we'll be good to go."
The Lumberjacks turned their season around last weekend sweeping all three matches during their stay in Albuquerque after dropping their first four overall of the spring. Two of their wins were historically impressive – including only their third-ever win over New Mexico and the program's first victory over Pacific – in addition to NAU's gritty 4-3 defeat of UTEP to begin the weekend. The Lumberjacks, now sitting at 3-4 on the season, were led by sophomore Johanna Vang and senior Nicole Perez, each of whom recorded a perfect 3-0 mark in singles play. Seniors Malia Wahinepio and Alice Pacaut also chipped in two singles victories apiece helping the Lumberjacks nearly quadruple their singles win total as a team over their three matches.
Vang enters play on Saturday on a roll, riding a career-best four-match singles win streak including her win at UC Santa Barbara on Feb. 1. She is tied for the team-lead along with Pacaut with a 4-3 singles mark. But the Lumberjacks were even more dominant in doubles play in their three wins as they claimed the doubles point in each match and compiled a 7-1 record as a team.
Competition will be just as tough this weekend beginning with Air Force on Saturday. The Falcons are 4-4 this season, but has dropped their last four matches after starting the season 4-0. The Lumberjacks fell to the Falcons, 6-1, last season. In that match, NAU claimed victories at No. 2 and 3 doubles to take a 1-0 lead into singles play, but was shut out in singles by Air Force.
Following Air Force, the Lumberjacks will make the trip to Greeley, Colo. to face Northern Colorado in NAU's Big Sky conference opener. The Bears will look to avenge a 5-2 loss to the Lumberjacks a year ago in a match that NAU had to fight hard for. After dropping all three doubles matches and the resulting doubles point, the Lumberjacks won five of the six singles matches, but four of the six went the full distance in three sets. NAU is 9-2 all-time versus Northern Colorado, who is 1-2 on the season and was picked fourth in the Big Sky preseason poll. The Lumberjacks have won nine-straight in the series since losing the first two with the last NAU loss coming in 1993.
NAU will wrap up play for the week on Monday in Boulder, Colo. against Colorado of the Pac-12. The Buffaloes are 4-3 after splitting their matches last weekend, falling to UC Santa Barbara and defeating Loyola Marymount. The Lumberjacks are winless in four previous meetings with the Buffaloes and this will be the first meeting between the two schools since 1997.
"I think we're we need to be going into the beginning of conference," Bruno said. "Going 3-0 last weekend against teams that would finish at the top of the Big Sky, we're sitting in a good position. We just need to make sure we're rested and mentally ready for what's in front of us in another long weekend."
Match times for this weekend is 8:30 a.m. at Air Force, 1 p.m. at Northern Colorado and 10 a.m. at Colorado. Live stats will be available for Saturday's match at Air Force here.