The Northern Arizona women's tennis team had been in this position before -- three consecutive years to be exact -- standing across the net from Idaho in the Big Sky Championship match. Three straight years, Idaho denied ended Northern Arizona's season.
After Saturday's statement 4-0 victory, the Lumberjacks can officially consider the Vandals vanquished.
The Lumberjacks are headed to the NCAA Tournament for just the second time in program history, snapping a 20-year drought and capturing their fourth all-time conference tournament title in the process.
"I'm absolutely proud of every one of the ladies, not only today because they worked for this the entire season," Lumberjacks head coach Ewa Bogusz said. "They didn't take days off, came back from tough losses and worked even harder. Their willpower and work ethic are what got them the title today."
On court one, junior Chiara Tomasetti and Idaho's Marianna Petrei squared off in the headlining match. On one side stood Petrei, the three-time Big Sky Most Valuable Player, with an unblemished 47-0 career record against conference opponents. On the other side was Tomasetti, whose only loss this season came at the hands of Petrei a week ago.
With Northern Arizona leading the match, 3-0, the Lumberjacks captain delivered. Petrei's final shot of her career sailed long, and as quickly as Tomasetti's teammates piled on her, three years of heartbreak was a memory of the past.
"We knew this was (Chiara's) last chance to beat her," Bogusz said. "Chiara is our team captain and she deserves this win more than ever."
Tomasetti's 6-1, 6-2 championship clincher capped a dominating performance by the Lumberjacks at the Phoenix Tennis Center. Sophomore Madi Moore and freshman Emilie Haakansson put the Lumberjacks on the board first with their 6-2 win at No. 3 doubles over Laura Spataro and Maggie Chen. The two teams split the first two completed doubles matches, with senior Hanneke Lodewijks and sophomore Ellie Millard blanking Anna Stefani and Marta Magalhaes, 6-0, at No. 2.
Millard made quick work, 6-1, 6-0, of Spataro at No. 3 singles to lift Northern Arizona to a 2-0 advantage. Haakansson followed that up by defeating Magalhaes, 6-0, 6-3, at No. 5 to put the Lumberjacks within a point of the title.
"We had a tough season, didn't have the best start, but we won today in the most important match, so I'm super proud of the whole team," Tomasetti said.
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Lodewijks was close to picking up a win at No. 2 as she led Maria Tavares, 6-3, 5-2, when Tomasetti clinched the match. Moore was ahead at a set at No. 6 and freshman Adrianna Sosnowska was locked in a three-set match at No. 3.
Northern Arizona will learn its NCAA Tournament first-round opponent during the NCAA Selection Show that takes place Monday at 3:30 p.m. and will be streamed on NCAA.com.
The Lumberjacks clinched the Big Sky Championship after taking down Portland State 4-0 Saturday in Phoenix. The championship marks the first time in program history that NAU will move on to the NCAA Tournament.
"I am so happy for our seniors," Lumberjacks head coach Maciej Bogusz said. "They have had many great seasons, but couldn't convert it in the championship tournament until today."
The win moves the Lumberjacks to a record of 22-6 while having gone 12-0 in Big Sky matches. The Jacks have been on a tear since March 2, as the team has now won 18 matches in a row.
The loss in the finals moves the Vikings to a record of 14-8 on the season and 6-4 in the conference.
Similar to the semifinal match against Idaho State, the Jacks fell at the No. 2 doubles and needed to win the No.1 and No. 3 doubles to win the point. NAU's No. 3 of Lucas Taylor and Facundo Tumosa won their match 6-2 over Portland State's Sam Roberts and Majeed Bukhari. The doubles point would once again come down to the No. 1 doubles pair of Tim Handel and Ruben Montano. Just like in the semifinals, the tandem was able to win their match to secure the point.
With a 1-0 advantage, the Lumberjacks were able to keep the pressure on the Vikings as they took the first three singles matches to win the match 4-0. Just like the semifinal, the three players to win their singles matches were Tumosa, Tom Fisher and Montano. Freshman Tumosa made quick work of Portland State's Tommy Edwards as he took him down at the No. 3 position 6-2, 6-2. Following Tumosa's win, the senior captain Fisher was able to win the No. 6 singles match 6-1, 6-2 over Otto Holtari. With a 3-0 lead, Montano was able to punch his team's ticket to the NCAA courts by winning the No. 5 singles match 6-3, 6-4.
The Lumberjacks will find out Monday during the selection show at 3 p.m who their next opponent is and when they play again.