Coming off their first conference road sweep since 2005, the Northern Arizona women's basketball team carries momentum into this week's homestand versus Portland State on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. and Sacramento State on Saturday at 2 p.m. in the Walkup Skydome.
The Lumberjacks, winners of three of the last five games with all three victories coming on the road, have put themselves in position to jockey for seeding in the middle of the Big Sky Conference.
The Jacks got the unbeaten road trip through Idaho State (81-77) and Weber State (75-64), improving to 8-14 overall and 4-9 in conference play. Currently ninth in the standings, Northern Arizona is one win behind Montana and Eastern Washington, both of which are tied for sixth entering the week.
The Portland State Vikings, 17-4 overall, are currently in fourth in the conference but are a single game behind Idaho for first at 9-3 in the Big Sky. Portland State knocked off Sacramento State (74-58) and Northern Colorado (85-66) at home last week.
Sacramento State will then head to the Skydome on Saturday with an 8-12 overall record and 4-8 in conference record. The Hornets lost to Northern Colorado, 71-61, Monday night in addition to their loss to Portland State.
Northern Arizona fell to Portland State, 72-55, in the Viking Pavilion in mid-January. Peyton Carroll led the Lumberjacks with a career-high 21 points in her home state in the loss. Two days earlier, Northern Arizona had a victory slip away as Sacramento State prevailed, 65-61, at The Nest. NAU's Kaleigh Paplow scored a team-high 19 points and joined the 1,000-point club the first time around against the Hornets.
"At Portland State, we didn't shoot the ball very well," said Lumberjacks head coach Loree Payne. "They sit in their 2-3 zone and we have to be aggressive in attacking the zone. Then we turn around and play Sacramento State and we feel like we had one get away from us there."
The Lumberjacks have found their offensive rhythm over their last five games, shooting 40 percent or better from the field in each of the outings, making the first five-game stretch with a field goal percentage upwards of 40 percent since the team opened the 2012-13 season with seven such games.
Northern Arizona's top-six players in the rotation are all averaging double-figure points, led by Khiarica Rasheed's 12.6 per game in the last five. Rasheed, redshirt sophomore Jacey Bailey, Carroll, Paplow, freshman Regan Schenck and redshirt sophomore Caitlin Malvar are all averaging at least 10 points per game over the last two weeks.
"We've been shooting the ball a lot better and our team chemistry is developing as we understand how to play with each other," Payne said. "We've finally started to play a little more fluid."
Paplow leads the team with 13.9 points per game, and now resides in ninth all-time in program history with 1,080 points. Paplow needs only eight points to climb into seventh; with nine rebounds, she would also move into third all-time.
Paplow leads the team, and ranks seventh in the Big Sky, with 7.8 rebounds per game.
Malvar paces the Lumberjacks with 3.4 assists per game and a 1.6 assist-to-turnover ratio. Over the last five games however, Malvar has registered 21 assists and only seven turnovers for an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.0.
Averaging 73.0 points per game in their last five contests, NAU's season scoring average is up to 66.0 placing the Lumberjacks fifth in the Big Sky. NAU allows 71.9 points per game and is fourth in rebounding with 40.0 boards per game.
Both games this week will be shown online and on the free mobile app on Pluto TV Channel 239 in addition to watchbigsky.com. Saturday's game will also be shown on NAU-TV and Your Phoenix CW.
Thursday's game will be Northern Arizona's annual Play4Kay game in support of the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, and all fans are encouraged to wear pink for breast cancer awareness. The first 250 fans will also receive free NAU Valentine's Day candy.
On Saturday, the team will hold Alumni Day. There is also a $30 Family JackPack ticket package including four game tickets plus a $20 concession voucher for Saturday's game only.
Junior Chiara Tomasetti repeated as the Big Sky Women's Tennis Player of the Week on Wednesday and earned the honor for the third time in five weeks this spring after an undefeated weekend across the board.
Tomasetti picked up her sixth career conference player of the week award, breaking a tie with Edit Suhajda (2007-11) for most in program history.
Tomasetti also joins Suhajda as the only players in Northern Arizona women's tennis history to record three player of the week awards in the same season. Suhajda was the first to accomplish the feat during the 2011 spring season.
Tomasetti was perfect during Northern Arizona's three-match home weekend against Mesa Community College, New Mexico State and Utah State, going 3-0 in both singles and doubles at the No. 1 position in the Lumberjacks lineup.
In singles, the Roesrath, Germany native defeated Mesa Community College's Sabrina Sanchez (6-0, 6-0), New Mexico State's Rebecca Keijzerwaard (6-1, 6-2) and Utah State's Hannah Jones (6-0, 6-2) in succession while only dropping a total of five games in her three straight-set victories.
The lone nationally ranked Big Sky player in the Oracle/ITA Division I Women's Rankings at No. 106, Tomasetti remained unbeaten in the dual season with a 6-0 singles record.
Tomasetti and freshman Adrianna Sosnowska were also perfect in doubles play, claiming 6-0, 6-1 and 6-3 wins over their counterparts from Mesa Community College, New Mexico State and Utah State respectively. NAU's doubles tandem is 5-2 this spring at the top spot of the lineup.
The Lumberjacks travel to Lafayette, Louisiana, to participate in the Cajun Invite hosted by the University of Louisiana and made up of Northern Arizona, Texas A&M - Corpus Christi, Alcorn State and the University of Louisiana.
The Cajun Invite will take place Friday and Saturday.
The Lumberjacks are coming off a 4-3 victory over San Diego State. The win pushed Northern Arizona to 2-2 overall.
In the 4-3 victory over SDSU, the Jacks were able to win the doubles point, and three singles matches. In doubles, although NAU's No. 1 pair fell, the No. 2 and No. 3 doubles pairs were able to win. The pair of Chris Steele and Tom Fisher picked up a win 6-3, while Northern Arizona's No. 3 duo's of Lucas Taylor and Facundo Tumosa won 6-4. The three singles winners for the 'Jacks were Tim Handel, Tumosa and Ruben Montano. Handel's win clinched the win for the Lumberjacks.
NAU's leader in singles wins through four matches is Tim Handel, who has accumulated four wins.
Texas A&M - Corpus Christi is currently 7-3 on the season and is currently riding a two-match losing streak.
Alcorn State has yet to get their first win, as they are currently 0-11. The Braves have won three points throughout the season.
The University of Louisiana is currently 9-2, and now riding a three-match winning streak. In the three matches, the Ragin' Cajuns have beat Nicholls State, New Orleans and Southern Miss without giving up a single point.