Eastern survives four three setters to claim 4-2 victory over Gonzaga
For the second time this season, the Eastern Washington University men's tennis team captivated the crowd with another nail-biting match against the Bulldogs of Gonzaga. After enduring four three-set matches in singles play and a tiebreaker in doubles, the Eagles prevailed with a 4-2 decision late Tuesday (March 29) evening at the Jim Thorpe Fieldhouse in Cheney, Wash.
In the first meeting of the season between the neighboring rivals, Eastern came away with a narrow 4-3 victory.
The match Tuesday against GU was Eastern's final non-conference duel of the regular season. Eastern has three Big Sky matches remaining on its schedule, starting with league favorite Sacramento State on Friday (April 1) in Cheney.
To no one's surprise, Eastern won the doubles point against Gonzaga with victories from its two most powerful pairs. Juniors Chad Henninger and Julian Sanchez, who came into the match with an impressive 8-4 record, outlasted GU's Muzeen Ismath and Jake Davis at No. 2 doubles, 9-8.
Eastern's No. 3 duo of sophomore Chris Eriksson and freshman James Russell won its 10th doubles match of the year when they downed Levin Guillermo and Kevin Eischen, 8-4. Eriksson and Russell have lost only two matches all season, while their 10 wins in doubles action ranks eighth in EWU's single-season record book.
As a team, EWU has won 62 percent of its doubles outings, which includes a 12-3 mark in the Big Sky.
After securing the doubles point, EWU went up 3-0 with victories at No. 2 and 4 singles. Freshman Mario Navarro beat Eischen, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 and junior Stefan Simikic edged Zhia Hwo Chong in three sets, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Gonzaga would make it interesting though, as Guillermo won at No. 1 singles and Scott Sullivan at No. 5, bringing the Zags within one point at 3-2. Sophomore Fernando Mussolini won his first set at No. 1 singles, but Guillermo charged back to win the second and third, and thus the match, with a 6-4, 7-5 decision. Henninger fell to Sullivan, 6-3, 6-3.
Eastern needed a victory from either Sanchez at No. 3 or sophomore Kyle Koetje at No. 6 singles. Sanchez jumped out to an early lead with a 6-4 victory in the first set, but his opponent won the second set 6-3 to force the fourth three-set match of the evening. The final set went into a tiebreaker, but Sanchez was able to dig deep and come up with the big win that clinched the match for EWU.
Eastern is now 9-11 overall on the year, and will return to conference action on Friday with a 3-2 mark.