Trio of Men’s Tennis Players Honored by Big Sky
Sophomore Ilija Cuic garners first-team honors, while Henninger and Navarro earn a spot on the honorable mention squad
After a successful season that saw the Eastern Washington University men's tennis team finish third in the Big Sky Conference with a winning 6-2 record, three members of the squad were recognized by the league coaches as 2012 All-Big Sky Conference selections.
Sophomore Ilija Cuic was considered one of the top eight players in the entire conference, as he was named to the All-Big Sky first team. Senior Chad Henninger and sophomore Mario Navarro landed on the honorable mention squad, which marked the first-career postseason accolade for both players.
After redshirting the 2011 season, Cuic had an impactful debut this year for the red and white. With his help, Eastern earned a bid to the Big Sky Conference Championship for the first time in three years, while also celebrating the first overall winning season (12-9) since 2009.
Playing 15 of 19 matches at No. 1 singles and the other four at No. 2, Cuic finished with a 10-9 overall record and 6-2 mark in Big Sky duals. He was equally impressive in doubles play, losing only match throughout the entire league season.
Cuic, a native of Zagreb, Croatia, started his 2012 campaign with a 6-4, 6-2 victory against then-nationally-ranked St. Mary's. Later in the season, he helped EWU capture two big wins against Weber State and Northern Arizona, which ended up clinching the postseason bid for the Eags.
In those final two home matches, Cuic beat Weber State's Oliver Good in straight sets, 6-4, 6-2, and then had a come-from-behind victory against NAU's Shaun Waters (6-7, 6-4, 6-4).
Henninger had a brilliant senior season, finishing with the best overall record on the squad, and the best in his four-year career with the Eagles. The Eugene, Ore., native went 13-6 on the year, playing primarily at No. 4 singles. He was 6-2 in league play, which included back-to-back wins against Weber State and Sac State - both of which were 2012 tournament participants.
Henninger was 9-7 in doubles action, with five of those wins coming in Big Sky play.
He started the memorable campaign with seven-consecutive wins, including one against the nationally-ranked Oregon Ducks in his hometown of Eugene. Henninger downed UO's Jose Izquierdo in straight sets at No. 4, 6-2, 7-5. The very next day, he celebrated another big win on the road against conference-foe Portland State. For his efforts in the pair of matches in Oregon, Henninger was tabbed as the Big Sky Conference Player of the Week for the first time in his career.
Henninger will leave Eastern ranked fourth in the all-time record book for career singles wins (40), while he and partner Julian Sanchez rank third for career doubles wins (19).
Like Cuic and Henninger, Navarro also reached the 10-win mark this season, as he finished at an even .500 (10-10). He went 4-4 in Big Sky duals, which included an impressive 6-4, 7-5 win at No. 3 against Big Sky regular-season champion Montana.
Navarro compiled the best doubles record of any player on the team, finishing the year at 11-7. Six of those 11 victories came against Big Sky opponents. The Barcelona, Spain native was perfect playing in the No. 3 spot with a 6-0 record.