Big Matches on Slate for Eagle Tennis Squads

Feb. 18, 2009

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The Eastern Washington University men's tennis team will finally play in the Spokane area after starting the season with seven matches away from home.

The Eagles (4-3) will head to the Spokane Racquet Club to play Gonzaga at 6 tonight (Feb. 18) before opening Eastern's home slate versus Sacramento State at 3 p.m. on Friday (Feb. 20).

Tonight's match will be the first for the Eagles since a 7-0 road win over Northern Colorado on Jan. 25 earned EWU a 1-0 Big Sky Conference mark. Dating to last year, the Eagles have won 12-of-16 matches with all four losses coming on the road to top-75 opposition.

Eastern Washington has also won three straight match-ups with Gonzaga, which include a pair of 7-0 victories last season. The Bulldogs are off to a 5-3 start this year after going 6-18 in 2008.

Friday's match will serve as a rematch of last year's Big Sky championship contest, which saw the Eagles rally from down 3-1 to claim a 4-3 win and their first-ever Big Sky title.

It will also be Sacramento State's first conference match of the season. The Hornets are 2-4, but have fallen to four top-20 teams among their first six matches of the season.

Last season, Sacramento State went 16-8 and 8-0 in Big Sky play. That victory by the Eagles in the league's championship match snapped an 18-match winning streak the Hornets had held versus league opponents.

A Look at This Year's Team              
Eastern returns six of its eight starters from a 2008 squad that won its first-ever Big Sky Conference championship. Six newcomers join the 2009 team.

The six returnees include four who earned All-Big Sky honors a year ago (Pannhara Mam, Nico Riego de Dios and Kyle Schraeder were each named to the first team, while Art Karas earned Honorable Mention accolades).

Also, seniors Karas, Mam and Schraeder are first, second and third, respectively (46, 42 and 38 wins apiece), on the career singles wins listing in the Eastern record book. Senior Daniel Pez is seventh (25), while Riego de Dios, a junior, is currently 10th with 21 victories.

Impressive Turnaround for Eagles
         
Before completely turning around its program with the 2006 squad, Eastern Washington had recorded at least 19 consecutive losing seasons (results from the 1987 campaign are incomplete).

To compare and contrast, consider that the Eagles have gone 46-30 since the beginning of the 2006 season (16-6 in Big Sky Conference play) after finishing 6-52, 1-25 in league contests, the four years immediately prior (2002-05).

Top-Notch Schedule for Eagles in 2009      
The Eagles will take on top-notch competition this year, as the team has four nationally-ranked foes on its slate.

First up were 34th-ranked Washington on Jan. 10, No. 66 Utah on Jan. 16 and 47th-ranked Denver on Jan. 23, who the Eagles fell to by 7-0, 6-1 and 7-0 scores, respectively.

The other nationally-ranked foe for Eastern this year is No. 65 BYU, who the Eagles will face in Provo, Utah, on March 27.

Each of these four contests takes place on the road.

There are also four singles players and a pair of doubles tandems who are nationally ranked and scheduled to face Eagle opposition this year.

Kyle Schraeder fell to Denver's No. 84-ranked player, David Simson, 6-2, 6-2.

On Friday (Feb. 20), Eastern players are scheduled to take on No. 95 Kiryl Harbatsiuk and 115th-ranked Jason Smith. A doubles tandem is slated to take on No. 30 Anton Stryhas and Harbatsiuk.

Upcoming matches against nationally-ranked players include No. 83 Corey Smith of Montana State (who play Eastern on March 7 in Cheney) and Northern Arizona's nationally-ranked doubles tandem in No. 39 Chris Arena and Jaco Visagie (who will play EWU in Flagstaff on April 4).

Where's the Match?                                  
Until the weather warms up, home tennis matches will take place at the Jim Thorpe Fieldhouse, located directly to the south of Reese Court, the home of the EWU basketball and volleyball teams. It is on the bottom floor of that facility, right behind the racquetball courts.

Once spring arrives, home contests will take place outside at the Sports and Recreation tennis courts, located directly to the northwest of the varsity soccer field and next to the Jim Thorpe Fieldhouse.

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The Eastern Washington University women's tennis team is in the middle of a five-match home stand which comprises five of Eastern's eight home contests in 2009.

The second and third of those will be this weekend. The Eagles play their second Big Sky Conference match of the season at 9 a.m. on Saturday (Feb. 21) versus Portland State before playing host to Idaho at 3 p.m. on Sunday (Feb. 22).

The Eagles are 2-3 and 0-1 in Big Sky play after falling to No. 45 Sacramento State in their first home contest on Feb. 8.

The Vikings are 2-7, 0-2 in Big Sky contests after falling to Montana State and Montana on Jan. 30 and 31, respectively.

Last year when the Eagles and Portland State faced off, Eastern was victorious in the Rose City by a 5-2 count.

Idaho is 5-4 after beating Montana State, 4-3, and Wyoming, 5-2, on Saturday (Feb. 14). The Vandals will play Portland State on the EWU campus at 10 a.m. on Sunday prior to meeting the Eagles later that day.

In their last meeting on April 19 of last year in Lewiston, Idaho, the Vandals came away victorious, 6-1.

Impressive Turnaround for Eagles                      
Eastern Washington is in the midst of an impressive turnaround, having won 27 matches since the beginning of the 2006 season.

By comparison, the 2001-05 teams combined for just eight victories.

In Big Sky Conference contests, Eastern has gone 8-8 the last two years after going 6-43 from 2000-06.

Also, the Eagles claimed their first postseason victory, 4-0 over Montana in the 2008 Big Sky quarterfinals, since 1994. The victory snapped a 29-match postseason losing streak for the Eagles.

The 10 wins earned by the 2008 squad were the most by an Eagle team since the 1993 team went 10-8. That 1993 season also marks the last time Eastern has posted a winning record, something this year's squad has set as a goal.

Eastern returns three of its six letterwinners from a year ago and welcomes five newcomers to the 2009 squad. The returning letterwinners include Rachel Berger, Marie Demerath and Amanda Mankovits.

Berger currently has 35 career victories, the third-highest total in Eastern history.

Mankovits and Demerath are tied for sixth place on the EWU career wins chart with 27 apiece.

Top-Notch Schedule for Eagles                       
The Eagles take on top competition in 2009, as a pair of nationally-ranked teams is on the slate. These include No. 45 Sacramento State and 59th-ranked Washington State.

The Eagles played host to the Hornets in both teams' initial Big Sky Conference match of 2009 on Feb. 8, falling to the visitors, 7-0. Eastern will pay a visit to the Palouse and WSU on April 9.

Also, Eagle players are scheduled to take on three singles opponents ranked nationally, as well as one nationally-ranked doubles team.

The singles players include No. 58 Katrina Zheltova of Sacramento State, who Marie Demerath fell to by 6-1, 6-2 scores, 119th-ranked Cougar Ekaterina Kamendova and No. 124 Elisabeth Fournier, also of Washington State.

Where's the Match?                                  
Until the weather warms up, home tennis matches will take place at the Jim Thorpe Fieldhouse, located directly to the south of Reese Court, the home of the EWU basketball and volleyball teams. It is on the bottom floor of that facility, right behind the racquetball courts.

Once spring arrives, home contests will take place outside at the Sports and Recreation tennis courts, located directly to the northwest of the varsity soccer field and next to the Jim Thorpe Fieldhouse.

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