FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The premier match of the season at 11-time Big Sky defending champions Sacramento State highlights a pair of matches for the Northern Arizona women's tennis team this weekend. Before the Lumberjacks look to end the Hornets' astounding 93-conference match winning streak on Sunday though, they will play a tough San Francisco squad on Saturday as NAU kicks the spring into high gear coming off two wins in Las Cruces, N.M. a week ago.
"Both USF and Sac are higher level teams than what we just came off from at New Mexico State," said director of tennis Kim Bruno. "With that being said, I'm glad that we're going to have a match under our belt with USF before we head out to Sac and it's going to be important for us to play well in that first match and figure out what it's going to take to win points at low altitude. Hopefully that match, win or lose, will help us with our match at Sacramento."
Spearheaded by a complete team effort last week, the Lumberjacks scored consecutive 5-2 wins over Colorado State and New Mexico State to even their record to 6-6 for the spring following a 0-4 start. NAU received at least one win from all six singles players last weekend with sophomore Hannah Stone, the reigning Big Sky women's tennis Player of the Week, and junior Tatum Rochin sweeping both of their respective matches. Rochin, filling in the singles lineup for sophomore Johanna Vang, had a successful NAU debut winning both of her matches at No. 6 singles in straight-sets. Meanwhile, seniors Alice Pacaut and Nicole Perez both registered their team-leading seventh victories of the spring with dominating 6-0, 6-0 wins against Colorado State. They are two of eight players in the Big Sky with at least seven singles wins.
The Lumberjacks also won the doubles point in both of their matches last week and for the third weekend of the row was led by their No. 3 doubles tandem of Pacaut and Malia Wahinepio. The senior duo won its seventh and eighth consecutive matches to push its season record to 9-2 as Pacaut and Wahinepio continue to lead the conference in doubles wins. Stone and Vang also won both of their doubles matches at No. 1 and they now own a 7-4 record with their seven doubles victories at No. 1 tying for the most in the conference at the top doubles position.
Although the Lumberjacks are playing exceptionally well over the last three weeks with six wins in their last eight matches, their competition this week may be the toughest they have faced since their season-opening weekend stretch of Arizona, UC Davis and Arizona State. San Francisco is 5-3 this season and shares four common opponents with NAU thus far in 2013. While both teams defeated Pacific and UTEP, the Dons earned wins over UC Santa Barbara and UC Davis, two teams which defeated the Lumberjacks.
San Francisco is led by a pair of freshmen in Andrea Ka and Sofia Holmberg who hold down the top two singles positions as well as the No. 1 doubles position for the Dons. Ka, the No. 18 ranked player in the Northwest Region, is a team-best 7-1 in singles at No. 1 and Holmberg is 6-2 at No. 2. The pair is 4-4 in doubles play. The two teams last played in 2011, a 4-3 victory for the Dons and have met just one other time back in 2001 which the Lumberjacks won 7-0.
Then comes Sacramento State, who owns a 20-2 advantage all-time over NAU, on Sunday. After the Lumberjack victories over the Hornets in 2000 and 2001, Sacramento State has defeated NAU 20 times since 2002 when its conference championship run began. Over that span, the Lumberjacks have fallen victim to the Hornets nine times in the Big Sky Championship match.
"They're a tough team, there's no question about that," Bruno said. "They're a little higher level than the rest of the Big Sky and they've been dominating for a reason. More so than ever though, I feel that the girls believe they can beat any team including Sacramento State. They're the team we've been mentally gearing for since day one of practice. We truly believe we can win and we just have to go out there and do it."
The Hornets are just 1-6 this season, but five of their six losses have come against ITA nationally-ranked squads. Rebeca Delgado, a three-time All-Big Sky first team selection, is the Hornets' No. 1 singles player, but she is just 1-6 this season. Jennifer Nguyen is a team-best 3-4 while playing at No. 4. Delgado and Sophie Lohscheidt are 4-3 at No. 1 doubles.
Last year, Sacramento State defeated NAU, 6-1, in Flagstaff. In the loss, Vang claimed the team's only point with a win at No. 5 singles, while Pacaut and senior Ghizelene Doballah prevented a Hornet sweep in doubles with a win at No. 3.
The Lumberjacks play at San Francisco at 12 p.m. on Saturday. They will then look to end their personal losing streak and the conference's losing streak to Sacramento State on Sunday at 1 p.m.