Eagle Men's Tennis Opens Big Sky Play

Jan. 24, 2007

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Eagles Open Big Sky Play

The Eagles (0-1) will open Big Sky Conference play this weekend, taking on new member Northern Colorado (0-0) in Greeley at 1 p.m. PT on Saturday (Jan. 27).

The Eagles also play No. 62 Denver and Air Force prior to playing the Bears. Both of those matches will take place in Colorado Springs, Colo., with the DU contest starting at 6 p.m. on Thursday and the AFA match commencing at nooon on Friday.

The Pioneers also have a nationally-ranked singles player in No. 21 Adam Holmstrom and a doubles tandem in No. 44 Kalle Rosen and Timo Kienle.

"It is obviously a big weekend for us," head coach Patrick Dreves said. "We have seven matches which are cruicial for us this year (the seven BSC contests), and obviously one is Northern Colorado. We also have another ranked program on the schedule in Denver (EWU played No. 18 Washington last week).

"Air Force has a very good team and, at altitude, it's always a struggle. It is nice to get a couple matches in up there before we play Northern Colorado, to get used to the altitude."

The Eagles opened its season with the highest-ranked opponent on its 2007 schedule, No. 18 Washington, and the Huskies proved how tough they can be by earning a 6-1 win over Eastern.

The Eagles however, did see Patrick Millican claim a 7-6 (7-2), 6-3 win at No. 4 singles over Patrik Fischer in what was the first singles win by an Eastern player over a Washington counterpart in Dreves' time at EWU.

2007 Season Preview

Is it tennis season already?

In a word, yes. The Eastern Washington men's tennis team gets its 2007 campaign going on Friday (Jan. 19), as the men play at No. 18 Washington, a team which advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 last year. First serve for the season-opening match will be at 4 p.m.

Last season, EWU welcomed in a new era of Eagle tennis with the completion of the new tennis complex at the EWU Sports and Recreation Center.

On the courts, the Eagles are in the midst of an impressive turnaround of its program, as they went 10-8 last year after tallying that many wins in their last five seasons combined (10-60). The win total last year was the team's highest since the 1985 squad went 13-10.

"It was a record-breaking year for us in just about every avenue," head coach Patrick Dreves said.

The future looks bright for Eagle tennis, as the men have every player back from last year and adds some impressive recruits

"We return all of those kids we had last year, and we bring in at least three guys who will be impact players for us in Nico (Riego De Dios), Gennady (Yakubovskiy) and Daniel (Pez)," Dreves said. "A lot of our current players improved a great deal, as well. I think they understood that the level of tennis is moving up and they can either get on board or they get left behind."

In total, Eastern saw a trio of players earn All-Big Sky Conference accolades. Pannhara Mam received first team accolades, Patrick Millican was named to the second team and Kyle Schraeder earned Honorable Mention accolades.

Mam went 12-5, 5-5 at No. 1 and a perfect 7-0 in the second slot, in 2006. Millican recorded a 10-7 mark, going 7-3 at No. 4, while Art Karas went 10-6, mostly at No. 5 (4-2) and 6 (6-3). The doubles team of Mam and Schraeder was 12-6 at No. 1, while Jonathan Davis and Millican had a 11-5 record in the second slot.

"I think the dynamics are healthy," Dreves said. "It's certainly more competitive and our depth is better this year than it has ever been. We will certainly have players battling for positions, which is what you want. We want to put our players in a situation where they have to perform at their best and push every day if they want to be part of the program, one of the top six.

"This is a team that should be fighting for a conference championship. Youth is probably our biggest challenge and getting the players to believe that we can do it. I think it's only being part of a program that has been down for so long. The belief system has to be there, and that is our job as coaches to make sure that happens."

Top-Notch Schedule for Eagles in 2007

The Eagles are coming off an impressive 2006 season and are ready to take on top-notch competition this year. Eastern has a trio of top-75 squads on its schedule, including a pair of top-25 teams.

The Eagles opened its season on Friday (Jan. 19) with 18th-ranked Washington and fell to the Huskies on their home courts, 6-1. Eastern will play its second consecutive match against ranked opposition this week, taking on No. 62 Denver in Colorado Springs on Thursday (Jan. 25).

The Eagles will close its regular season the way it commences, in a tough environment, as Eastern heads south to take on No. 25 Boise State on April 21.

The home opener for the Eagles will occur on Feb. 3, as UC Davis comes to town that day for a 9 a.m. match.

"Even those teams that are not ranked on our schedule, like Oregon (EWU's opponent on March 17) and Portland (March 18), are awfully tough," head coach Patrick Dreves said. "I wanted to open with the University of Washington because I wanted the players to see where we need to be. It's a tough place to play and I want our players exposed to that early and understand that, yes, we are talented, but this is where we need to be. This is our goal; this is how much work we have to do."

There are four ranked singles players and a trio of ranked doubles tandems on Eastern's schedule. The singles players are No. 15 Luke Shields and No. 94 Clancy Shields of Boise State, 21st-ranked Adam Holmstrom of Denver and No. 98 Alex Slovic of Washington. The Huskies have the 35th-ranked doubles team in Michael Ricks and Patrik Fischer, while the tandems of Jayce Fitch and Daniel Elefant of UC Davis and Kalle Rosen and Timo Kienle of Denver are tied for the 44th slot in the national rankings.

Newcomers to the Eagle Tennis Family

There are some new staff additions to the Eagle tennis programs. Darren Haworth and Jan Steenekamp will now serve as assistant coaches, while Jeff Kawaguchi is now the strength and conditioning coach.

Haworth has experience with Dreves, as he played for the Eagle head coach at Linfield, where Haworth helped lead the Wildcats to their first-ever appearance in the NCAA Division III Tournament. He would serve as an assistant coach at his alma mater from 2002-03 and, for the past year, has served as men's and women's head coach at Fresno City College.

Steenekamp is a former No. 1 singles player for Montana who earned first team All-Big Sky honors three times.

"He is one of the top players maybe ever in the Big Sky," head coach Patrick Dreves said.

Kawaguchi currently acts as an assistant athletic trainer within the EWU athletics department and works directly with the women's basketball team. He serves as an assistant professor in the Athletic Training Education Program at EWU, as well.

"Because he is a physical therapist, he understands both sides of it, not pushing kids too hard, but also understanding if they have got nagging injuries," Dreves said.

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