The Northern Arizona men's tennis team won at three of the top four singles positions, but was edged out by UC Riverside at Scottsdale Community College, 4-3. NAU dropped the ever crucial doubles point and by virtue of a split in singles, the Lumberjacks fell to 2-5 on the season with just one match remaining prior to the start of the Big Sky season.
"There's no doubt that the guys fought hard," men's assistant tennis coach Joseph Heckley said. "The top of our lineup really came through, but we need to work on consistency from our lower half of our lineup. Our energy needs to improve on court. I think we needed this loss as a wake-up call before we get into conference play. This loss shows what we need to work on and it's only going to help us going forward."
The Lumberjacks, 8-1 when winning the doubles point dating back to the beginning of the 2012 season, fell behind in the match to the Highlanders Saturday morning. UC Riverside's Calvin Ngo and Julian Ruffin cruised to an 8-1 victory over NAU's No. 3 doubles pair of sophomores Kester Black and Trevor Unger to begin the match.
The doubles matches at the No. 1 and 2 spots were contested though and the Lumberjacks had a chance to pull out the doubles point. However, seniors Robert Martin and Shaun Waters came up short at No. 1, falling to UCR's Simon Peters and Jimmy Roberts, 8-6. The Lumberjacks were ahead at the second position when the doubles point was clinched.
The Lumberjacks got right back into the match though in singles as Black knocked off Kevin Griffin at No. 4, 6-2, 6-3. After the Highlanders won at No. 6, senior Patrick Schimmelbauer evened the match score for the second time when he posted his team-leading third win of the season, 6-3, 7-5, over UCR's Luis Gastao.
The match would come down to the final three singles matches as both teams dueled to three-sets in each. However, UC Riverside proved to be victorious as Ngo and Ruffin outlasted Martin and junior Dominic Bermudez at the No. 5 and 3 spots respectively to take the match. Waters concluded Saturday's neutral-site contest with a three-set victory at the top position.
The Lumberjacks will be back in action next weekend in the state of Colorado with matches on Friday and Saturday.
They will play at Air Force on Friday at 4 p.m. before opening up their conference season on Saturday at Northern Colorado at 9 a.m.
After defeating New Mexico just once in program history prior to the 2012 season, the Northern Arizona women's tennis knocked off the Lobos for the second-consecutive year on Saturday, 5-2. The win was the Lumberjacks' second of the weekend as they improved to 2-4 on the season.
"Our girls outcompeted that team, they played great today," director of tennis Kim Bruno said. "They're a better coached team this year and they fight. But we edged them out and that just shows how tough our girls are."
The Lumberjacks jumped on the home team from the onset, sweeping doubles play. Seniors Ghizelene Doballah and Nicole Perez got NAU's winning ways going with an 8-2 victory at No. 2 before sophomores Hannah Stone and Johanna Vang clinched the doubles point with their 8-6 win at No. 1. Seniors Alice Pacaut and Malia Wahinepio completed the sweep with their win at No. 3, ensuring the Lumberjacks' first doubles sweep of the season.
After the Lobos knotted the score at 1-1 behind Michaela Bezdickova's straight-set victory over Stone at No. 1, the Lumberjacks rattled off three-consecutive victories to seal up their second win of their weekend stay in Albuquerque. Wahinepio quickly knocked off Katie Wookey, 6-1, 6-2, at No. 4 to give NAU the lead it would not relinquish, with Perez and Vang following with wins of their own. The two teams would split the final two matches with Pacaut moving her record to a team-best 4-2 at No. 5 to wrap up the match.
Vang and Pacaut each won their third consecutive singles match.
The Lumberjacks aim for a sweep of the weekend when they play Pacific today at 9 a.m.. at UNM's Linda Estes Tennis Complex. Like the Lumberjacks, the Tigers have already defeated UTEP and New Mexico this weekend and is 5-2 on the season.
NAU sophomore forward Eridda Banks had career-highs of 18 points and nine rebounds and Northern Arizona outscored North Dakota 7-3 in overtime to record a 64-60 win on Saturday afternoon in Rolle Activity Center.
"I'm proud of the team," NAU head coach Sue Darling said. "We have a tendency to not shoot a lot of free throws and in this game we shot 28, which is incredible. We have an athletic team, we have a team that is very strong going to the hoop, and we need to take advantage of that and force people to guard us and we're getting to the point where we're doing that."
The game was close throughout with seven ties and 10 lead changes with neither team leading by more than six points. NAU led by two points with 12 seconds left in regulation before UND drew a foul and made two free throws. The Lumberjacks drew an ensuing foul but were unable to convert from the free-throw line with 5 seconds left as the game went to overtime.
UND's Madi Buck hit a three to give North Dakota a 60-57 lead a minute and a half into overtime, but that would be their only field goal of the extra period. NAU senior Aubrey Davis hit consecutive shots to put NAU up 61-60 with two minutes to play, and that score remained until Lumberjacks senior Amy Patton hit a jumper to put the home team up 63-60 with under a minute remaining.
Banks forced an ensuing steal and hit another free-throw to put NAU up four, and after North Dakota missed consecutive threes Lumberjack junior Amanda Frost grabbed a rebound with 26 seconds left. Inexplicably North Dakota did not immediately foul, and NAU was able to spread the floor and run the final 26 seconds off the clock to close out the win.
"We've been practicing end-of-game situations and so we know what to do," Darling said. "They're becoming calm and cool under pressure. They know how to do it and they're beginning to trust and believe in themselves and they're delivering."
Banks got to the free-throw line 15 times, making 10 en route to her career-high point total. Patton finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds while Davis added 15 points and seven boards and Frost totaled 11 points. Northern Arizona (7-17, 6-9 Big Sky) outshot North Dakota (10-15, 5-11 Big Sky) 37.9 percent to 30.5 percent for the game while North Dakota had a slim 43-41 rebounding margin.
There were four ties and six lead changes in the first half as neither team led by more than four points. The Lumberjacks trailed 14-13 after a UND 3-pointer at the 10:13 mark but scored the next five points to take an 18-14 lead. NAU still led by four at 28-24 with 1:45 left in the opening period but North Dakota closed the half with a pair of free-throws and a jumper to level the score at 28-28 at halftime.
NAU jumped to a game-high 6-point lead at 38-32 at the 14:37 mark of the second half. North Dakota rallied back to tie the score at 39-39 with just under 10 minutes to play and moved to a game-high 44-40 lead at the 8:25 mark after a 9-1 run.
The Lumberjacks tied the game back up at 46-46 and extended back to a 53-48 lead with 3:18 remaining in the second half. With the home team leading 55-51 North Dakota got a 3-point strike to get back within one, and NAU's lead was two with 12 second left after Davis made a pair of free throws and North Dakota answered with one. The two-late UND free-throws sent the game to OT before NAU emerged victorious.
"Erikka's been coming on ever since she got back on the court following her preseason injury," Darling said of Banks' performance. "She's played great defense for us but this was definitely the best offensive output she's given to us so far this year."
NAU will return to action in the Skydome next Saturday when it will host Sacramento State at 6:35 p.m. The game will be part of National Girls and Women's in Sports Day which will begin at 3 p.m.
Editor's Note: NAU's Sports Information Department contributed to this roundup.