NAU women’s tennis finished its regular season strong with a victory over the GCU Antelopes on Friday, 4-0. The Lumberjacks were able to secure their 10th win in 11 matches thanks to strong performances from their bottom court players.
While the match was originally scheduled to take place at noon inside the Aquatic and Tennis Complex, per the request of GCU and to honor NCAA precedent, the match took place at the outdoor courts. Due to strong winds, the teams agreed to start the match an hour earlier to avoid the strongest of the gusts.
“We’ve been practicing in this weather and we were ready,” NAU head coach Ewa Bogusz said. “I don’t think it changed much at the end of the day.”
This match was special in more ways than just that. With this being the last home match of the season for NAU, the team’s seniors were honored by the coaching staff and the few attendees in the stands. Lumberjack senior and reigning Big Sky Player of the Week Ellie Millard entered the day on a seven-match winning streak dating back to early March. She was honored alongside fellow senior teammate and Golden Axe recipient Madi Moore, whose NAU career comes to an end this season.
“She’s [Millard] obviously one of my best friends,” Moore said. “We’ve been through all four years together, so that was amazing to have Senior Day with her.”
The doubles matches on courts one and three ended in similar fashion. On court one, the pairing of Millard and sophomore Mimi Bland got off to a rapid start and pulled ahead. The duo held steady and took the match against sophomore Natasha Puehse and junior Jana Weiss, 6-2.
On court three, Moore and freshman Ava Neyestani dropped two of the first three games of the one-set match to fall behind, 1-2. The swingers from Scottsdale went on a rally of their own at the end of their match, winning five straight games over freshman Taylor Anderson and redshirt senior Joely Lomas, securing the doubles point for NAU, 6-2.
While the Lumberjacks already had the doubles point in tow, the match on court two was intensely competitive. The NAU pair of freshman Gina Dittmann and sophomore Elinor Beazley looked to improve their doubles record to 10-5 as they were riding a four-match winning streak. Going up against the experienced pair of senior Autum Prudhomme and graduate student Emilia Occhipinti, the match remained in a deadlock for a while. The teams stayed mostly within one game of each other all the way to a tiebreaker. Even though the doubles point was already given to NAU, neither pair was ready to give up a win. The tiebreaker was highly contested, but GCU prevailed to take its only doubles win, 7-6 (9-7).
As singles play began, the weather seemed to brighten up. Cloud cover had blanketed the sky throughout doubles, but skies were mostly clear from then on.
NAU won all but one of the first sets in each match. On court four, Neyestani very quietly took control of her match against Prudhomme as she won the first singles point in straight sets, 6-1, 6-4. With the win, Neyestani completed her perfect home record of 8-0.
With NAU only needing two more wins to secure the win over GCU, they were secured in seemingly odd ways.
On court three, Bland and her opponent, Lomas, had an even battle. In the first set, Bland went on two separate three-set winning streaks to take set one, 6-2. The opposite happened in set two as Lomas went on a streak to win, 6-2, and bring the match into a third set. Both players walked off the court and when they returned, Lomas required attention from a trainer as it appeared her leg was bothering her. After having her leg stretched out by the trainer, she decided to retire from the match, which gave Bland her 12th consecutive win.
While attention was being given to Lomas and court three, the honored senior Moore came away with the clinching win on court six with a straight-set victory over freshman Aline Buhr, who did not play in doubles.
Given that NAU already clinched the match with four points, the three remaining matches were declared unfinished. The match was called with NAU winning, 4-0.
The Lumberjacks added yet another win to their home winning streak, improving to 18 wins since their last home loss. NAU also keeps its perfect head-to-head record against GCU, improving to 4-0 all-time against the Antelopes dating back to 2010.
“It was another week of practice for us before going into conference and we very much needed it, especially as an outdoor match,” Bogusz said. “I think we just proved today that we’re ready to go for next week.”
NAU finishes off its regular season with a 12-4 overall record and 3-0 in conference play. The Lumberjacks had already clinched the Big Sky South Division a week prior, thanks to a 6-1 win over Weber State. Going into Friday’s match, the team already knew who they were set to face in the first round of the Big Sky Women’s Tennis Championship: the 9-10 Portland State Vikings, a team that finished as runner-up in the Big Sky North Division. This match is set to take place May 1 at 8 a.m. at Phoenix Tennis Center.