Eagles Hit the Road for Two Big Sky Battles

Eastern takes on Weber State Friday and Idaho State Sunday

Click HERE for a complete set of match notes in PDF format

The Eastern Washington University men's tennis team had more than two weeks off from competition following its last Big Sky contest. The extra practice time paid off for the Eagles, as the team came up with a big win (4-3) over non-conference foe Gonzaga in its most recent outing on Tuesday (Feb. 22). Eastern will look to carry that momentum on the road, as it returns to conference action this weekend with matches at Weber State and Idaho State.

The Eagles take on WSU on Friday (Feb. 25) in Ogden, Utah before heading to Pocatello to face ISU on Sunday (Feb. 27). The Eagles are 4-4 in the 2011 campaign, and 1-0 in Big Sky play. Eastern swept Northern Colorado for the fifth-straight year in its Big Sky opener on Feb. 6.

Weber State Preview

The Wildcats currently own a 1-1 record in league play and a 2-7 mark overall on the season. WSU lost to Sac State, 5-2 before narrowly defeating Portland State, 4-3.

Last season, EWU was one of only two teams to beat WSU during the regular season. Eastern won the match with a 5-2 effort. The Eagles swept the doubles matches, and then won at No. 2, 4, 5 and 6 singles. Returners Julian Sanchez, Chad Henninger and Flavio Malagutti accounted for three of EWU's four singles victories in the match.

Despite Eastern's win over WSU last season, the Wildcats were picked to finish one spot ahead of Eastern in the 2011 BSC preseason poll. WSU garnered 42 total points, compared to 40 for EWU.

Eastern has actually beat Weber State in each of the last five seasons. The last time the Eags lost to WSU was during the 2005 campaign when the Wildcats prevailed with a 5-2 decision in Ogden.

Idaho State Preview

Idaho State is winless in the 2011 campaign, including a 0-1 mark in conference play. The Bengals lost to perennial powerhouse Sac State in their Big Sky opener, 6-1. ISU has also played Montana State, but not in an official Big Sky contest. The Bengals lost to MSU, 7-0.

Eastern won its meeting with Idaho State in the 2010 season, besting the Bengals, 6-1 in Cheney. EWU has not lost to ISU in six-consecutive seasons. The last time ISU won was in the 2004 campaign when it upset EWU, 7-0 in Cheney.

Idaho State was picked to finish eighth in this year's BSC preseason poll. The Bengals won only one match last year against Northern Colorado.

Eagle Tennis News & Notes

Powerful Pairs: In Eastern's most recent competitions against Gonzaga, Northern Colorado and Air Force, two different EWU doubles teams rolled past the competition. Sophomore Chris Eriksson and freshman James Russell have won three in a row since teaming up together. The duo took down Alex Grubbs and Danny Gies of the USAFA, 8-5. They followed that win with another 8-5 victory over UNC's Lepine and Day, and then defeated Gonzaga's Eischen and Guillermo, 8-1. Junior Stefan Simikic and sophomore Kyle Koetje have had similar success, as the pair is undefeated this season at 4-0, which ties the best doubles mark in the big Sky. Simikic and Koetje clinched the doubles point for EWU in its match against Air Force, after the pair outlasted Taylor Soster and Lucas Marin-Salcedo, 9-8 (9-7). They also defeated Whitworth, 7-0 in Eastern's first match of the year, and recently took down Gonzaga's pair of Sullivan and Cong, 8-4.

Mussolini Wins Initial Big Sky POW Honors: Sophomore Fernando Mussolini was honored as the first tennis Big Sky Player of the Week for the 2011 season. This is the second weekly award for Mussolini, as he was also recognized by the league on Feb. 24, 2010. Mussolini, a native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, went 2-0 at No. 1 singles during the week, which included one of the biggest victories in Eastern Washington men's tennis history. Mussolini defeated Idaho's Marius Cirstea, who is ranked 57th in the nation and 17th in the mountain region. Mussolini beat Cirstea in straight sets, 6-2, 7-5. He is the first player under head coach Darren Haworth to beat a nationally-ranked player (top 100), and believed to be the first Eagle to do so since Eastern became a member of NCAA Division I.

Bears No Match For Eagles: Since Northern Colorado became a member of the Big Sky Conference during the 2006-07 season, the EWU men's tennis team has not dropped a single match to the team from Greeley. EWU has swept UNC, 7-0 in each of the last five years. This year, Eastern played Northern Coloardo in its Big Sky debut on Feb. 6 and did not lose a single set to the Bears.

Eagles Tabbed Fifth in Big Sky Preseason Coaches' Poll: The Eagle men's tennis team earned 40 points in the 2011 preseason coaches' poll, good for fifth place in the rankings. EWU returns six players from the 2009-10 squad that earned a 7-14 overall record and 3-5 mark in conference play. Sacramento State is the favorite for the 2011 season, having earned 63 total points and seven of nine first-place votes by the coaches. Northern Arizona and Montana followed in the poll at second and third, respectively, while Weber State garnered two more points than Eastern to claim fourth place. EWU's Big Sky season commences on Feb. 6 against Northern Colorado, who was tabbed ninth by the coaches.

BSC Preseason Poll    2010 Record    
School (first-place votes)   Total Points   Big Sky Overall  
Sacramento State (7) 63 7-1 17-12  
Northern Arizona (1) 53 6-2 13-9  
Montana (1) 47 6-2 9-7  
Weber State 42 6-2 10-13  
Eastern Washington 40 3-5 7-14  
Portland State 31 4-4 7-10  
Montana State 24 3-5 7-16  
Idaho State 15 1-7 1-12  
Northern Colorado 9 0-8 1-15  

Sanchez is 3-0 at No. 3: EWU junior Julian Sanchez is undefeated this year when playing at No. 3 singles. Sanchez has beat Joe Wales of Whitworth (7-5, 6-1), Jeff Tolman of Whitman (7-5, 6-1) and recently, outlasted Gonzaga's Conor Feeney in a three-set thriller, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4. Sanchez is 5-3 overall in the 2011 season. He has also won two matches at No. 4 singles.

Koetje Leading Big Sky's No. 6: EWU sophomore Kyle Koetje is 3-0 at No. 6 singles this year, which is the top mark in the Big Sky for that position. He has lost just one singles match total in 2011 for an overall record of 4-1. Koetje was one of only two Eagles to win his singles match against the Air Force. He beat Steven Young, 6-2, 3-6, 1-0 (10-8).

Eagles Excel in Three Setters: The Eagles have played in five three-set matches thus far in the season, and have prevailed in four of the five. Most recently, Julian Sanchez recorded a big win over Gonzaga's Conor Feeney, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4. Sophomore Kyle Koetje defeated Steven Young of Air Force, 6-2, 3-6, 1-0 (10-8). Freshman Mario Navarro was the only Eagle player to record a win against the Portland Pilots, as he topped  Adam Ferrero, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4. Early in the season, freshman James Russell outlasted Whitworth's Sam Sadeghi, 6-4, 4-6, 1-0 (10-4).

Eastern Returns Two 10-Win Players from Last Season: Sophomore Fernando Mussolini and junior Chad Henninger were the only two players to record double-digit wins in 2010. Mussolini finished they year with a 10-11 record, playing primarily at No. 3 singles. Henninger finished at 10-5 overall with equal outings at the No. 4 and No. 5 positions. Henninger, a native of Eugene, Ore., was also Eastern's most successful doubles player in 2010, garnering 14 wins throughout the year.

Five New Faces for 2011: The 2011 EWU men's tennis roster includes five new members, including three international students. Among the newcomers is James Russell, a freshman from Kirkland, Wash., Chris Eriksson, a sophomore-transfer from Saint Louis University, Mario Navarro, a native Barcelona, Spain, Luis Altimires from Terrassa, Spain, and Ilija Cuic from Zagreb, Croatia.

Sanchez in EWU Single Season and Career Record Book: Junior Julian Sanchez is the only active Eagle who appears in both the single season and career record book. As a freshman in 2009, Sanchez garnered 13 wins, which was enough to be included in the top 15 players in Eastern history in terms of single-season wins. In his career, Sanchez has compiled 21 total wins in singles play, which is ninth in the EWU career record book.

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