WOMEN'S TENNIS ADVANCES TO BIG SKY CHAMPIONSHIP, WILL FACE NORTHERN ARIZONA FOR SECOND STRAIGHT YEAR
SACRAMENTO, Calif — The Sacramento State Hornets will gun for their sixth straight consecutive Big Sky Conference Women's Tennis Championship on Sunday. Northern Arizona will be the team that tires to end the streak.
The Hornets, ranked 58th in the nation, and No. 2 seed Northern Arizona picked up semifinal victories on Saturday at the Gold River Racquet Club. Top-seeded Sacramento State beat No. 5 Montana, 4-0. Northern Arizona (12-9) edged No. 3 Montana State, 4-3, in the blazing California sun.
Sunday's championship, a rematch of last year's, is slated for 2 p.m. Sacramento State beat Northern Arizona 7-0 earlier this year in Sacramento. NAU is seeking its first title since 1999.
"We've been working on different things to try to get ready for Sacramento State,'' said Northern Arizona coach Kim Bruno. "It's a different matchup. We're going to be playing different players. I like the matchups. Obviously I know Sac State is a great team, but we have nothing to lose. We're going to go out there and hopefully with the patterns and things we've practiced, hopefully we'll be able to compete. We're going to have to play great tennis one through six. There is no doubt about it.''
Since 2002, Sacramento State (16-6) has won 42 straight matches over Big Sky opponents. Sacramento State has not lost a point to a Big Sky team this season.
"There is a big difference between a regular match and a tournament match,'' said Sacramento State first-year coach Dima Hrynashka. "There are more fans. They played well, and I hope they do again tomorrow.''
Sacramento State cruised to the doubles points with an 8-3 win by No. 1 team Katrina Zheltova and Luba Schifris. No. 3 team Aileen Tsan and Anastassia Lyssenko won 8-2.
The Hornets sailed in the singles matches. No. 5 player Cecilia Helland, a senior from Stockholm, Sweden, beat Montana's Martyna Nowak 6-0, 6-1. Just minutes later, No. 6 player Karina Jarlkaganova, a sophomore from Toronto, Ontario, beat Kayla Moyse 6-0, 6-0, to put the Hornets up 3-0. Katrina Zheltova, a freshman from Belarus, Minsk, finished off Liz Walker 6-0, 6-2, at No. 1
The Hornets also had the lead in the other three singles matches. Joyce Martinez Gutierrez was up 6-1, 4-0, in the No. 4 match. Anastassia Lyssenko was up 5-3 in the No. 2 match. Schifris was up a set and three games in the No. 3 match.
"The girls were excited to beat Montana one more time,'' Hrynahka said. "They are ready for tomorrow. They started today a little bit nervous, but after that I think it was good.''
Montana finished its season 6-17.
The Montana State-Northern Arizona match came down to the No. 5 singles competition between Remy Clark and Lumberjack Paij Porter. Porter, a sophomore from Mesa, Ariz., pulled out a dramatic 6-4, 6-3 victory to send the Lumberjacks into the championship.
The match lasted well over an hour after the other matches ended, leaving the two at center stage in 90-degree heat. The final point was won by Porter after Clark put a ball into the net after 64 volleys. Another point featured 62 volleys.
"It was an exact repeat of what happened last time,'' Bruno said, referring to NAU's 4-3 regular-season win over the Bobcats. "I know that NAU women's tennis is about heart, it's about mental toughness. It's about getting over 100 balls in the tennis court, doing what it takes to win here. Montana State is a very, very tough team. We knew it was going to be a battle in these conditions. I'm nothing but proud and excited for the big show.''
Northern Arizona won the doubles point, but it went down to the wire. After Northern Arizona's Katie Schurr and Leslie Vail won at No. 1 doubles, and Montana State's McKenzie Hilmer and Laura Villegas won 8-4 at No. 3, NAU's Susan McClelland and Patrice Biemold held on for an 8-6 victory at No. 2 doubles to secure the point.
Northern Arizona went up 2-0 when sophomore Leslie Vial beat Katy Proietti 6-0, 6-1, at No. 1 singles.
Montana State closed to 2-1 on Villegas' 6-2, 6-1, win at No. 4. Northern Arizona quickly moved back up 3-1 thanks to a 6-4, 6-3, win by Stacey Pinchbeck at No. 6.
The Bobcats quickly closed the gap to 3-3 as Nicole Luetolf closed out Shcurr 7-5, 6-1, at No. 2 and Nuria Hernandez beat Biemold at No. 1, 7-6 (9-7) 6-2.
MSU finished 10-12.
Big Sky Women's Championship Semifinals
Gold River Racquet Club (Gold River, Calif.)
Sacramento State 4, Montana 0
1. Katrina Zheltova, Sac, def. Liz Walker, UM, 6-0, 6-2
2. Anastassia Lyssenko, Sac, led Mari Castello, UM, 5-3, DNF
3. Luba Schifris, Sac, led Danni Paulson, UM, 7-6 (7-2) 3-0, DNF
4. Joyce Martinez Gutierrez , Sac, led Cheyne Ursich, UM, 6-1, 4-0, DNF
5. Cecilia Helland, Sac, def. Martyna Nowak, UM, 6-0, 6-1
6. Karina Jarlkaganova, Sac, def. Kayla Moyse, UM, 6-0, 6-0
Order of finish: 5, 6, 1
1. Katrina Zheltova/Luba Schifris, Sac, def. Liz Walker/Mari Castello, UM, 8-3
2. Joyce Martinez Gutierrez/Cecilia Helland, Sac, led Cheyne Ursich/Danni Paulson, UM 7-2
3. Aileen Tsan/Anastassia Lyssenko, Sac def. Martyna Nowak/Jessica Souza, UM, 8-2
Order of finish: 3, 1
Northern Arizona 4, Montana State 3
1. Nuria Hernandez, MSU def. Patrice Biemold, NAU, 7-6 (9-7), 6-2
2. Nicole Luetolf, MSU, def. Katie Schurr, NAU, 7-5, 6-1
3. Leslie Vail, NAU, def. Katy Proietti, MSU, 6-0, 6-1
4. Laura Villegas, MSU, def. Susan McClelland, NAU, 6-2, 6-1
5. Paij Porter, NAU, def. Remy Clark, MSU, 6-4, 6-3
6. Stacey Pinchbeck, NAU def. McKenzie Hilmer, MSU, 6-4, 6-3
Order of finish: 3, 4, 6, 2, 1, 5
1. Katie Schurr/Leslie Vail, NAU, def. Allison Fey/Katy Proietti, MSU, 8-1.
2. Susan McClelland/Patrice Biemold, NAU, def. Nuria Hernandez/Nicole Luetolf, MSU, 8-6
3. McKenzie Hilmer/Laura Villegas, MSU, def. Regan Newman/Paij Porter, NAU, 8-4.
Order of finish: 1, 3, 2.