Big Sky Player of the Year and Northern Arizona sophomore Sofia Anokhina shot a 1-under 71 Saturday during second-round action at the 2017 conference championships and sits atop the individual leaderboard with one round remaining.
Anokhina's second round got off to a fast start, registering two birdies in the first four holes, but she proceeded to bogey four of her next five to close out the back nine at 1-over 37. As was the case yesterday, though, the Lumberjacks' No. 1 golfer rallied on the last half of the Boulder Creek Golf Course, going for a 2-under 34 score with three birdies—two of which came on No. 16 and 17. Anokhina parred No. 18 to stay at 1-under 143 for the tournament, holding a two-stroke lead on second-place Clara Moyano from Idaho.
"The back nine, for whatever reason, is just easier for me," Anokhina said. "It just really appeals to my eye. I can see my shots really well, and I know I can just lock in when I get there. It was a roller coaster today, though. I wasn't feeling my putting and couldn't get the ball where I wanted it to go.
"For tomorrow, I'm just going to play my game and whatever happens, happens. I can't control the way other players are going to play, but obviously I'm going to do my best and control my tempo a little bit better."
As a team, the Lumberjacks shaved 13 strokes off Friday's first round score (28-over 313) with a 15-over 303. While they do find themselves 21 strokes back of first-place Sacramento State and 18 strokes back of Idaho, two teams that shot even-par scores Saturday, the NAU squad (43-over 619 for the tournament) is only a mere eight strokes back of third-place Portland State.
"On the back nine, yes, our team played much better," said Lumberjacks head coach Brad Bedortha. "On the front nine, I was a little frustrated. We weren't competing to the level we needed to. For our college players at this stage of the year to struggle the way they have is upsetting, but also good at the same time. It just provides an opportunity for me as coach to learn what things I need to get better at."
Kaitlyn Saum continued her great play, finishing up with an even-72 scorecard (7-over 151 through 36 holes). The biggest thing for Saum has been her ability to stay calm, cool and collected. In fact, following holes in which she records bogey or worse, Saum is at even-par.
Other scorers today for NAU included senior Kim Cifuentes out of the No. 2 slot (7-over 79 today, 18-over 162 for the tournament), Loren Skibba (9-over 81, 19-over 163) and Sierra Bezdicek (10-over 82, 29-over 173).
The third round of 2017 Big Sky Conference Championships will get underway Sunday, with Bezdicek teeing off at 8:30 a.m.
For the first time in school history, the Northern Arizona women's tennis team completed a perfect run through conference play with a 6-1 victory over Weber State Saturday. By virtue of their Senior Day win at the Aquatic and Tennis Complex, the Lumberjacks wrapped up the regular season with a 17-4 record and an unblemished 11-0 Big Sky mark.
NAU also ensured an outright regular season championship and will head into next week's Big Sky Championships in Phoenix as the No. 1 seed.
"Senior Day is always an emotional day especially when you have three strong seniors who have given so much to this team in terms of leadership and performance," said director of tennis Ki Kroll. "We're going to miss them, but we're not finished. We have the Big Sky Championships ahead of us and hopefully a trip to the NCAA (Tournament)."
Seniors Marta Lewandowska, Hailey Rochin and Blanka Szavay were honored prior to the team's regular season finale, and then the Lumberjacks went to work. NAU swept doubles play and took the early 1-0 advantage in the match.
Sophomore Hanneke Lodewijks and freshman Brandy Walker claimed the first match at No. 2 doubles, 6-2, and fittingly the senior tandem of Lewandowska and Rochin clinched the doubles point with a 6-3 win at No. 3. Szavay and freshman Chiara Tomasetti closed out with a 6-4 win at No. 1 for the pair's team-best 15th doubles victory.
Singles play had a little bit of everything as NAU initially rolled right through the first three matches to quickly clinch the match. Lodewijks set the tone with a dominating 6-0, 6-1 win at No. 1 before Szavay followed suit with a 6-0, 6-2 win at No. 3. Sophomore Eirene Granville picked up the match-clinching win at No. 6, 6-1, 6-1.
Despite the team score already being decided at 4-0, NAU had to battle in the final three singles matches with Weber State refusing to go quietly. Both Walker and Tomasetti each won their respective first sets with ease, only for their Wildcat opponents to respond and force a decisive third set. In the end, the Lumberjack freshmen would prevail with Walker earning a 6-1, 2-6, 10-2 win at No. 4 and Tomasetti pulling out a 6-2, 3-6, 10-8 win at No. 2. Tomasetti's victory was her seventh straight as she concluded the regular season at an impressive 18-2 in singles.
Weber State claimed its lone win in the final singles match at the No. 5 position. Rochin bounced back from a first set loss with a gritty second set win, but came up short in her final home match unfortunately in a 6-2, 5-7, 10-6 defeat.
In addition to a perfect conference record, the Lumberjacks completed an unbeaten home season with a 9-0 record at the Aquatic and Tennis Complex.
"We're in a good position and we've worked really hard," Kroll said. "I know they want to finish this off (at the tournament) and we're going to get great effort from them. It's going to be up to the ladies to compete hard and continue to be the strong team they've been all season."
By virtue of earning the top seed, NAU will receive a bye into the semifinals. The Lumberjacks' first match of the Big Sky Championships will be Friday. The time and opponent will be announced later.
The 2017 Big Sky Championships will run from April 27-30 at the Phoenix Tennis Center.