After being knocked out by Portland State in the first round of the conference tournament a year ago, the Northern Arizona women's basketball team will have an opportunity to avenge the loss and extend their season on Monday in the opening round of the 2018 Big Sky Championships on Monday in Reno, Nevada.
The two teams will meet in the Reno Events Center and tip off at 9:05 p.m.
Monday's meeting will mark the second straight year that the Lumberjacks and Vikings will meet in the opening round. It will be the third all-time conference tournament meeting between the two programs, with both teams having won once.
The Vikings nixed the Lumberjacks last season, 88-76. NAU enters as the No. 11 seed with a 7-22 overall record and 4-14 record in conference play.
The Lumberjacks lost a pair of games in the final week of the season, 93-83 to Idaho and 98-83 to Eastern Washington, despite strong offensive efforts.
NAU hopes to end a three-game losing streak, and pick up its first conference tournament win in 11 years. Should NAU win, the Lumberjacks would face No. 3 Eastern Washington on Wednesday in the second round.
Redshirt seniors Olivia Lucero and Kenna McDavis both had big offensive games against two of the league's top four teams during their final home games. Lucero erupted for 36 points against Idaho Wednesday and McDavis scored 39 points against Eastern Washington on Friday.
The pair are NAU's top two leading scorers, with Lucero ranking seventh in the Big Sky with 17.3 points per game and McDavis in 12th with 15.6. Lucero also ranks fourth in the conference with 4.5 assists per game, while McDavis is third with 8.3 rebounds per game. Junior Kaleigh Paplow is chipping in 10.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game behind NAU's senior one-two punch.
Portland State closed the regular season with six wins in its final eight games, entering the Big Sky Championships as the No. 6 seed with a 17-12 overall record and 11-7 conference mark. The Vikings lost narrowly to top-seeded Northern Colorado, 63-60, and defeated North Dakota, 80-61, on the road during the final week of the regular season.
Ashley Bolston leads the Vikings in scoring with 16.3 points per game. She ranks second on the team with 73 assists and is also averaging 4.2 rebounds per game. Sidney Rielly is Portland State's second-leading scorer with 15.8 points per game. Rielly shoots 35.2 percent from behind the arc and her 44 3-pointers made is second on the team.
The men's tennis team fell short against nonconference opponent Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles, 6-1, Saturday.
The Lions gained momentum after defeating the Lumberjacks in doubles 6-0, 6-1 before picking up wins on five more courts in singles.
NAU juniors Tim Handel and Ruben Montano paired in doubles and were tied 3-3 before the point was clinched.
In singles, Northern Arizona struggled to overcome LMU as the Lions clinched the victory at 4-0 with wins at the No. 4, 3 and 6 positions over Felix Schumann, Thomas Fisher and Sebastian Eguez.
Lucas Taylor was the only Lumberjack to notch a win. Taylor went up against LMU's Lucas Moreno, besting him 7-6(3), 6-3.
Northern Arizona is now 2-6 on the season and remains 1-0 in Big Sky action. The Lumberjacks will return to the courts Sunday to face UC Riverside and end their road trip in California.
SWIM AND DIVE
Five Northern Arizona divers will take their shots at an exclusive national championship spot Monday through Wednesday at the NCAA Zone E Diving Championships hosted in the Aquatic and Tennis Complex.
This marks the third straight year that Northern Arizona University is the host site for the competitive Zone E Championships.
A total of 23 schools, including Northern Arizona, will be sending women's divers to the ATC. Several schools will also be sending men's divers as a total of 96 divers from the Pac-12, Mountain West, Mountain Pacific Sports Federation and WAC will be in competition.
The women's preliminaries (1-meter on Monday, 3-meter on Tuesday, platform on Wednesday) will begin each day at 11 a.m. Finals will follow before the men's events conclude the daily action. The men will alternate with the women on springboard (3-meter on Monday and 1-meter on Tuesday) while also diving off platform on Wednesday.
Five of NAU's six active divers qualified for the Zone E Championships, headlined by junior Tatiana Kurach.
Kurach, who was named the WAC Diver of the Year for the second consecutive season, became only the second women's diver in NAU school history to punch a ticket to the NCAA Championships last season. Kurach qualified on 1-meter and wound up placing 49th at the national championships.
Making their third Zones appearance are juniors Raquel Gonzales and Christina Torrente. Gonzales narrowly missed joining Kurach at the NCAA Championships last year, finishing two spots out of the automatic qualifying spots at Zones on platform. She placed 13th overall, securing her best career Zones finish. Torrente also earned her best finish last year in 26th on 1-meter.
Junior Olivia Payne and freshman Jenny Cheetham will be making their Zone Championship debuts. The pair gives the Lumberjacks five qualifiers for just the fourth time in program history.
Each of the five divers scored in at least one 'A' final at this year's WAC Championships with a collective seven medals between them. They combined for a total of 10 all-conference honors, with Kurach winning gold on both springboards.
All five divers posted Zone qualifying marks on 1-meter, while all but Payne also qualified on 3-meter throughout the season. Gonzales was the only Lumberjack to post a qualifying score on platform.
Admission is free throughout the duration of the three-day championships. Real time results will be available at divemeets.com.