Eastern edges Warriors, 4-3, before dropping 6-1 decision to Vandals
The Eastern Washington University men's tennis team did not have to travel far to face some of its toughest competition this year. The Eagles played Lewis-Clark State and Idaho over the weekend, both of which are teams that frequently appear in the national polls. LCSC is currently ranked 19th in the NAIA Men's Tennis Top 25 Coaches' Poll, while Idaho was ranked among the top 75 in NCAA Division I for six of the first seven weeks of the season.
In its first of two matches at the LCSC Tennis Center in Lewiston, Idaho, Eastern (8-4, 3-0 Big Sky) edged the Warriors, 4-3. But the next day against Idaho, EWU suffered a 6-1 setback.
For the first time this season, EWU was able to win a match without winning the doubles point. Lewis-Clark State took the early 1-0 lead after victories at No. 1 and 2 doubles. Seniors Chad Henninger and Julian Sanchez did win their match though at No. 3 doubles, 8-6.
Sophomore Mario Navarro quickly evened the score with a 6-3, 6-4 win over LCSC's Sam Tozer at No. 3 singles. But the Warriors reclaimed an advantage when Henninger fell to Cesar Uauy at No. 4 singles, 6-3, 6-2.
Cuic upended Anders Tischer, 7-5, 6-2, while Russell beat Ivan Krijanto, 7-6, 6-3.
With Eastern up 3-2 in the match, LCSC came up with a big win at No. 6, as Lincoln Gay managed to outlast senior Stefan Simikic in a three competitive sets. Simikic took the first set, 6-3, but then lost the second in a tiebreaker, 7-6, which was followed by a 6-2 loss in the third.
Now in a must-win situation, Sanchez came through in the clutch for his team. The senior from Ciudad Real, Spain, topped Benjamin Robert in a thrilling three setter. Sanchez had a strong start, winning the first set, 6-2. But Robert made it interesting when he rallied in the second set for a 6-4 victory. In the decisive third, Sanchez prevailed, 6-2.
Highlighting Eastern's match against the Vandals was Henninger, who earned his eighth victory of the season when he downed Jose Bendeck at No. 4 singles, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
Sanchez also endured a three setter on Saturday against Idaho, but unfortunately, he came out on the losing end. UI's Cristobal Ramos Salazar outlasted Sanchez, 6-1, 6-7 (2), 6-2.
Henninger and Sanchez also had a strong performance in doubles, as the Eagle duo just barely lost at No. 3. Idaho's Ramos Salazar and Jake Knox managed to eek out a 9-7 win.
Cuic, Navarro, Koetje and Simikc lost in straight sets at No. 1, 2, 5 and 6, respectively.
The Eagles will face another nationally-ranked opponent next weekend when they travel to the west side to play No. 24 Washington on Friday (March 9) at 4 p.m. Eastern will then take on Seattle on Saturday (March 10) at 7 p.m.