Women’s tennis clinches second place in conference during weekend trip
Following a 10-day break, the NAU women’s tennis team returned to the court and clinched the second seed in the Big Sky Conference tournament with a victory against the Eastern Washington Eagles. The win capped off a weekend trip to the Northwest with matches against the Gonzaga University Bulldogs and the Washington State University Cougars.
“We weren’t supposed to clinch second this year for the first time in a long time,” said director of tennis Kim Bruno. “We have a brand new team of girls, and for us to come in and take out Montana, I think we deserve to be second in conference right now.”
The Lumberjacks (8-12, 6-1 BSC) downed the Eagles (4-13, 2-4 BSC) 5-1 Sunday to clinch second place in the conference with one match left on their Big Sky schedule.
“Our mindset was just to prepare ourselves ultimately for (Eastern Washington) because it was our conference match,” said freshman Hannah Stone. “We wanted to start the weekend off intense and no matter what the outcome was we wanted to start preparing our minds for (Eastern Washington).”
With doubles play skipped for the match, the Lumberjacks continued their strong conference play taking five wins in straight sets.
Stone finished with a 2-1 singles record following a 6-2, 6-4 win at the No. 2 position. Junior Alice Pacaut also finished the weekend 2-1 overall in singles with her 6-2, 7-6 (7-2) win at the No. 6 position, giving her a team-leading 10 singles wins.
Juniors Ghizelene Doballah, Malia Wahinepio and freshman Johanna Vang all won their singles matches in straight sets to improve to 6-1 overall in conference. NAU’s top four positions improved their combined record to 23-5 in conference.
“If anyone has watched us from the beginning of the season until now, we’ve grown as a team,“ Bruno said. “We’re playing better and better tennis and that’s what you want at this point, especially heading into this next weekend and the conference tournament.”
After a strong start in Saturday’s match, the Lumberjacks fell 4-3 as the Bulldogs (9-6, 1-3 West Coast Conference) rallied from behind for the win.
Gonzaga captured the first doubles match at the No. 1 position, but Stone and Vang grabbed their team-high tenth doubles win of the season to even the doubles score at one apiece. Pacaut and junior Nicole Perez squeaked out an 8-6 win at No. 3 to take the point.
Stone won her singles match at No. 2 6-4, 6-3 to make the team score 2-1 after the Bulldogs had won at the No. 3 spot.
“I was just talking to my coach about that the other day, we’re really happy with my doubles success,” Stone said. “I have really improved my volleys and my net game, and having Johanna as a partner has been really fun. I think we can really do big things with that partnership.”
From there, the Lumberjacks lost the next three singles decisions to lose the match. Vang dropped her match in a pair of tiebreaking sets for a 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-5) loss.
Pacaut wrapped up the day with a 6-0, 2-6, 11-9 victory in a third set super tiebreaker for the Lumberjacks.
The Lumberjacks opened the weekend road trip Friday with a 7-0 loss to the No. 30 ranked Cougars (16-5, 4-3 Pac-12) and only managed one set victory through singles play.
“I think we should have beaten Gonzaga, and I thought we should have had a couple more Ws against Washington State,“ Bruno said. “But yeah, did we rebound and are we 6-1 in conference right now? We are, so I think that says a lot for what the team can do.”
WSU opened the match with a sweep of the three doubles matches, taking the opening team point. Pacaut and Perez lead their match at the No. 3 position 4-3, but failed to win another game and lost 8-4.
In singles play, Stone opened her match with a 6-2 first set from Washington State’s Elisabeth Fournier. However, the freshman fell 6-3 in the second set and then lost a third set super tiebreaker 10-2.
“I played a pretty flawless first set, so that was pretty cool, and then I kind of lost my mind a little bit there in the second set,” Stone said. “I learned a lot from it. It was too bad that I couldn’t pull that out, but I was just too tight in that third set tiebreaker.”
Stone’s first set victory against Fournier, the nation’s No. 125 ranked singles player, wound up as the only set win in singles play for the Lumberjacks.
“Ultimately I think I learned from it, and I don’t think ill let it happen again this season,” Stone said.
NAU closes out the regular season with a return to the Northwest for matches against Portland State University and Seattle University on April 14 and 15 respectively, before the Big Sky Conference tournament gets underway in late April.
“These next two matches are winnable,” Bruno said. “We want to win out, we want to feel confident going into the tournament.”