NAU women's tennis clinched the Big Sky South Divison with a Saturday win over Weber State at the Aquatic and Tennis Complex. The Lumberjacks relied on their top three singles players, freshman Gina Dittmann, senior Ellie Millard and sophomore Mimi Bland to deliver the title, after a close doubles portion. Despite locking up the title early, the match was highly contested.
The Lumberjacks came into the matchup unbeaten in the conference, as well as at home. Weber State suffered a loss to Montana, but with the Grizzlies playing in the North Division, this matchup would decide the South Division winner.
Millard and Bland jumped out to an early lead on court one and took the first three matches, but not without their fair share of challenges. The pair's power proved troublesome and gave them the early edge, but the other courts found themselves behind early, both trailing 2-1 after three sets.
“I knew how important this match was,” Millard said. “I think my experience from previous years helped me come in with the right mindset.”
While Millard and Bland wrapped up their match less than 30 minutes in, the other two teams were looking for a breakthrough as they found themselves tied at three. Dittmann and sophomore Elinor Beazley won two straight from that position, but the first-year Wildcat pairing of freshmen Megan Davis and Sicely Ferreira fought back. Meanwhile, after falling behind 3-5 senior Madi Moore and freshman Ava Neyestani mirrored what the Wildcats were doing on court two. Both NAU teams found themselves trailing 5-6, but both fought back to earn a tiebreaking set. The Lumberjacks only needed one court to win to get a point from the doubles portion. The point came quickly as Beazley and Dittmann wrapped their tiebreaker 7-2, closely followed by Neyestani and Moore, giving the Lumberjacks the advantage heading into singles.
“Today was just about playing basics and not making easy mistakes,” NAU head coach Ewa Bogusz said. “Really, it was about enjoying every single point and playing our way, even when we lose points.”
Bland and Millard picked up right where they left off, jumping out to comfortable leads in their matches. Dittmann also built an early advantage, but once again the rest of the Lumberjacks found themselves in dogfights. Bland wrapped up her first set with a 6-0 win, while Millard would finish, 6-1. Dittmann, despite facing a little more adversity, would finish her first set, 6-2. The trio continued their dominance in the second set, where Bland once again was the first to finish 6-1, followed closely by Millard, 6-2. The title was just one point away, and all eyes turned to court one, where Dittmann was closing in.
“I really enjoy playing next to Ellie [Millard] and Mimi [Bland],” Dittmann said. “It's awesome to see them winning, it also takes a little bit of pressure off me and it definitely keeps me up.”
The freshman finished her second set, 6-1, looking unfazed throughout. With four points secured, the Lumberjacks on courts four through six were now just playing for pride. Neyestani and Beazley both won the first set, 6-4 and 7-5, while Moore had fallen 3-6. Moore couldn’t recover in set two, falling 6-2. Beazley would wrap her match, 6-3, dominating the later games. Neyestani dropped her second set, 6-4, leaving her in her second tiebreaker of the day. Despite falling behind early, Neyestani rallied, delivering the final point of the day to the Lumberjacks.
NAU has one more home match against Grand Canyon Antelopes on April 23 before heading to Phoenix to compete in the Big Sky Conference tournament May 1-2.