Vikings resume conference play at Northern Arizona

This Sunday the women’s tennis team hits the road against Northern Arizona.

This Sunday the women’s tennis team hits the road against Northern Arizona. The game will mark the first conference match in over a month, and also the start of the final four regular season matches. PSU is coming off a tough non-conference weekend where they fell to both Seattle and Washington State. The team hopes to win out the rest of their season and move up from their current seventh place position, as they still hold onto very slim postseason hopes.

It was a hard pair of matches last weekend for the Vikings. The team couldn’t finish in a tough 4-3 loss last Friday against Seattle and failed to even make a stand at Washington State, where the Viks suffered a 7-0 shutout defeat. The weekend did have some highlights, as the first line doubles pairing of senior Anya Dalkin and freshman Yuki Sugiyama added another win to their already team high total.

Sugiyama and Dalkin beat out their Seattle opponents in a tiebreaker round, and currently lead the Vikings in doubles wins with their record of 8-6 overall. Sugiyama followed her doubles win with a singles victory of her own against the Redhawks as well.

“Winning the doubles point is key to continuing the momentum into the singles portion,” Dalkin said. “Playing well in the opening match sets the tone for the rest of the matches.”

Head coach Jay Sterling echoed the importance of winning the first team point in competition.

“I think we could’ve competed better in both of those matches [Seattle and WSU],” Sterling said. “Especially in the doubles I felt like we came out pretty flat. We’ve addressed that and how to start off the match better, which is crucial because it carries over to singles.”

The Viks must improve on the areas they struggled with last weekend if they hope to beat the fourth-ranked Northern Arizona Lumberjacks, who stand at 8-9 overall and 3-1 in conference. The Jacks are coming off a 7-0 sweep of the Northern Colorado Bears last Saturday, and will face Eastern Washington tomorrow prior to their match against Portland State on Sunday.

Last match, the Jacks hosted competition on their outdoor courts for the first time, although as of press time it was not decided if they will be playing outside or indoors. The Viks are crossing their fingers for an outside opportunity since NAU’s indoor courts are far from ideal, but Sterling said the team knows about the highly rubberized courts and its reputation for accelerating balls and putting serves off-balance, but must learn to cope.

“It is challenging playing at one of the highest (elevation) cities in the US, their court is rubberized, and we could go on and on and on, but we know that we have to deal with it the best we can,” Sterling said.

While the Viks’ No. 1 positioned doubles team combines the maturity of a senior and the fire of a freshman, NAU boasts two experienced seniors in the position. Orsi Suhajda is joined by her other Hungarian teammate Orsi Golovics, as both players have been named All-Big Sky for the past three years, and according to a statement released by NAU, are two of the biggest contributors to the team.

Last season when the two teams met, PSU fell hard to the Jacks in a 7-0 decision. For the Viks, Dalkin and fellow senior Caitlin Stocking are players with some experience against the Lumberjacks. Although both seniors fell last season in their single’s segment, Dalkin and then No. one partner Caitlin Stocking (now at the No. two doubles position) defeated NAU’s first line duo last year, sophomore Alice Walker and senior Yumi Hasegawa.

Although the positions have changed since last season, Stocking will most likely again face Hasegawa who also is at the No. two position at least in the doubles portion, but the official positions were not available as of press time.

The Vikings have made big improvements in the rankings this season compared to last year including their first conference win earlier in the season against Northern Colorado. Dalkin noted that although NAU may be a tough team to beat, it’s none-the-less a great opportunity for the team to get back on their feet and play at a new level.

“The goals we had as a team [are] we want to compete well against NAU,” Dalkin said. “But it’s definitely one of the matches we are using as a stepping stone for Eastern and Idaho [State], which are two of the teams we have on our goal list to beat”

The match is set to begin at 9 a.m. in Flagstaff, Arizona. ?