Eagle Men Sweep Whitman Before Falling to No. 73 Idaho

Sophomore Fernando Mussolini takes down one of nation's top 60 players to remain undefeated in 2011

For the second weekend in a row, the Eastern Washington University men's tennis team came away with one win and one loss after a lengthy Saturday doubleheader. Eastern swept Whitman 7-0, but then dropped a narrow match to No. 73 Idaho, 5-2 at the Jim Thorpe Fieldhouse in Cheney, Wash.

EWU sophomore Fernando Mussolini had a phenomenal outing, winning both of his matches in straight sets. He recorded one of the biggest victories in Eastern Washington men's tennis history, defeating Marius Cirstea of Idaho, who was ranked 57th in the nation coming into the match. Mussolini owned Cirstea in the first set, 6-2 and then outlasted him in the second with a 7-5 decision. He is the first EWU tennis player to defeat a nationally ranked player in more than five years.

Mussolini's win over Cirstea was his fourth-straight in the 2011 season. He also topped Whitman's Andrew La Cava earlier in the day, 6-2, 6-2.

"Fernando has been brilliant to start the season," said EWU head coach Darren Haworth. "He is staying incredibly focused on the court, and making very few unforced errors."

In addition to Mussolini, junior Julian Sanchez also recorded two wins on the weekend. He defeated Whitman's Jeff Tolman, 7-5, 6-1, and then took down Jose Bendeck of Idaho, 6-2, 6-4.

"Julian is playing really steady," applauded Haworth. "His fitness level has improved a lot and he is starting to find his rhythm."

Juniors Stefan Simikic and Chad Henninger, sophomore Kyle Koetje and freshman James Russell all earned wins in singles play against Whitman, while all three of Eastern's doubles teams were also victorious against the Missionaries.

Against Idaho, Eastern was not able to get a win in doubles play, but all three matches were tight affairs, ending with identical scores of 8-6. After capturing the doubles point, Idaho quickly went up 3-0 after Mario Navarro fell at No. 2 singles, 6-0, 6-2 and Simikic dropped a 7-5, 6-2 decision at the No. 3 position.

Mussolini and Sanchez were the next two to finish, and their wins brought Eastern to within one against one of the nation's top teams. Unfortunately, Idaho clinched the match after sophomore Chris Eriksson lost in straight sets to Abid Akbar, 6-1, 6-1.

The Eagles will return to action on Saturday (Jan. 29) when they travel to Portland to take on the Pilots at 4 p.m.

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