Tennis prepares for upcoming Big Sky season with Fall tournaments
By Chris Albas-Martin
With just two tournaments remaining in the fall schedule, the Northern Arizona University (NAU) women’s tennis team is looking to end the fall season strongly ahead of conference play.
Director of tennis, Kim Bruno, has been impressed with the way all of the players have been performing so far this season.
“Each player has really found their games,” Bruno said. “They have understood what is needed to succeed at the level that we need to play at. I think that there is not one player that will look back on this fall and say that ‘I have not improved.’”
The Jacks kicked off their season at the Aggie Invitational in Las Cruces, N.M, where senior Alice Pacaut was the star performer, posting a record of 4–1. Pacaut came through her first round match dropping just one game, winning 6–0, 6–1 before she was defeated in the second round by Martina Trieweiler of University of Texas-El Paso (UTEP), 6–3, 6–3. Pacaut finished her singles portion of the tournament by recording three straight set victories.
Junior transfer Tatum Rochin ended her tournament with a record of 3–1 after defeating Anastasiya Sylenko from UTEP in straight sets, 6–2, 6–2. Elsewhere, senior Alice Walker finished with a 2–3 record after dropping her final match, 6–2, 6–2, against Katie Wookey of University of New Mexico. In doubles play, Pacaut and Rochin were knocked out in the first round of the Crimson Main Draw, after losing 9–8 to the St. Edward’s University pairing of Alexandra Khadhzyan and Paige Rachel.
The Lumberjacks then traveled to Las Vegas for the UNLV Fall Invitational on Sept. 21. The Jacks had more of an indifferent tournament this time around. Sophomore Johanna Vang was the team’s top performer reaching the Flight 4 singles semi-final before falling to Ella Bourchier of UNLV, 3–6, 6–4, 7–6.
“I think it has gone really well,” Vang said. “I have improved a lot mentally, I stick to one game plan and I have worked on a few things from last year. I feel like we have a really good team this year, people have really stepped up and we have improved and grown as a team.”
Senior Ghizelene Doballah and sophomore Hannah Stone both picked up a win to bring their records to 1–2 for the tournament. Senior Malia Wahinepio fell to 0–3 for the tournament as she was defeated by Long Beach State’s Anna Jeczmionka 6–4, 2–6, 6–3.
The Jacks were back in Las Vegas a couple of weeks later to play in the ITA Mountain Regional Championships. Two of the four singles players were defeated in the first round of the competition. Stone fell in a rain hit game against Wyoming’s Sasa Nemcova in three sets, despite winning the first set.
“So far it has been good,” Stone said. “I think I am done playing tournaments so far for fall but the first two Vegas tournaments were really good, I had some really tough singles matches, in the first one I learned a lot and ended up pulling a tough match up at the end so I got my confidence up a little bit.”
Senior Malia Wahinepio was also defeated in the first round, losing in straight sets against New Mexico State’s Ginet Pinero. The Jacks found some success with Vang and Pacaut. Both players recorded straight sets victories on their way to the second round. Vang defeated Megan Sheehan-Dizon from Brigham Young University, 6–2, 7–6, while Pacaut beat a future Big Sky opponent Weng Tsan from Montana State University, 6–2, 6–4.
Vang secured a trip to the third round after a 6–0, 7–5 victory over Lisa Roslanova of New Mexico State. However, Pacaut suffered defeat in the second round at the hands of Julyette Steur from the University of Colorado, 6–7, 6–1, 6–0. In the third round of the tournament, Vang was defeated by Emma Verberne of UNLV in straight sets, 6–4, 6–4. The loss sent Vang to the consolation singles draw.
NAU did find some success in doubles play, where the Lumberjacks top doubles partnership of Stone and Vang advanced to the second round of the main draw following an 8–3 victory over Kristi Elmer and Thais Kurer from another Big Sky foe, Weber State. The pairing then beat Boise State’s Manuela Pietzuch and Marlena Pietzuch, 8–6 before dropping the third round matchup to Aleksandra Josifoska and Iren Kotseva from UNLV, 8–4, to be knocked out of the competition.
“We are really good friends off the court,” Stone said. “On the court we have a good time but we are also intense, we kind of match our intensity levels and as far as our skill, she is tall at the net and I set her up at the net and we have a good time out there and we get down to business.”