Eagles Open Conference Play at Northern Colorado

Eastern heads to Centennial State to face Air Force on Saturday and Northern Colorado on Sunday

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The Eastern Washington University men's tennis team has two matches on tap this weekend, including its 2011 Big Sky Conference debut against Northern Colorado. The Eagles will first play Air Force on Saturday in Colorado Springs, Colo., before traveling to Greeley to take on the Bears on Sunday at 8 a.m. Pacific time.

"The team has been working really hard in practice, and our intensity level is right where it needs to be for the start of Big Sky," said EWU head coach Darren Haworth. "We have a deep team this year and the guys have been pushing each other really hard in practice. Everyone is excited to get conference underway."

Before Eastern does that though, the team will face one more challenging non-conference opponent. Air Force is 3-0 this season, with two of those wins coming against other Big Sky schools in Montana State (5-2) and Northern Colorado (7-0).

"Air Force is going to be really tough," said Haworth. "But it's a good match to play before UNC because it gives our team a chance to get acclimated to the high altitude."

Colorado Springs sits at nearly 7,000 feet, which is almost three times the elevation of Cheney (2,352). Greeley is right in the middle at 4,658 feet.

The Bears, who were picked ninth in the 2011 BSC preseason coaches' poll, currently own a 1-3 record in dual matches. UNC is 0-1 in conference after suffering a 6-1 loss to Montana State in its second match of the year.

The Eagles have never lost to Northern Colorado under Haworth. In fact, Eastern has swept the Bears, 7-0 in each of the last four seasons.

Heading into the weekend, Eastern owns a 2-3 record, which includes 7-0 sweeps of Whitman and Whitworth and a narrow 5-2 loss to then-No. 73 Idaho.

Sophomore Fernando Mussolini has proved to be Eastern's top player in the early-season matches, garnering a 4-1 record in singles action. Mussolini was honored as the Big Sky Player of the Week on Jan. 26 after he took down one of the top 60 players in the nation. During the 2010 season, Mussolini was one of only two Eagles to record a winning record in conference play. He earned five wins in the BSC, including a three-set victory over UNC's Robbie Edwards.

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