Montana Pays Visit to EWU on Friday

March 9, 2009

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The Eastern Washington University men’s tennis team will play its final home match for nearly a month at 3 p.m. on Friday (March 13), as Montana will visit EWU for a Big Sky Conference match.

The Eagles (7-6) are coming off a 1-1 weekend with the win coming in the team’s Big Sky contest of the pair of matches, blanking Montana State 7-0. Eastern also fell to Idaho in a tight non-conference tilt, 4-3.

Eastern is 2-1 in Big Sky play and in fifth place in the league standings, trailing five teams who are unbeaten after playing 1-2 league matches. One of those is Montana (2-1, 1-0 BSC).

The Eagles have won the last two meetings with the Grizzlies, 6-1 in Missoula last year and 4-0 in the Big Sky semifinals the year before.

The earlier victory of those two snapped a 36-match losing streak Eastern had versus Montana entering that contest.

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 take up the top three spots on the career singles wins listing in the Eastern record book. Karas has 51 victories, while Mam and Schraeder have 43 apiece.

Senior Daniel Pez is sixth with 30, while Riego de Dios, a junior, is currently tied for seventh with 26.

First to 50!                            
In Eastern Washington’s 7-0 defeat of Linfield in Lincoln City, Ore., on Feb. 28, Art Karas become the first Eagle to ever record 50 career victories. His 50th came by 6-2, 6-2 scores on court three.

Doubles Team Tops No. 59      
In one of the most impressive doubles wins in school history, Nico Riego de Dios and Kyle Schraeder teamed up for an exciting 9-8 (15-13) victory over No. 59 Anton Stryhas and Kiryl Harbatsiuk of Sacramento State on Feb. 20.

At the point the Eagles held a 12-11 advantage in the tiebreaker, the Hornet pair broke serve twice to grab its second match point at 13-12. The Eagles then returned the favor by breaking serve twice themselves to go up 14-13 before claiming the 15-13 win.

The duo has played No. 1 doubles the entire season and is 8-3, having won 7-of-8 contests.

Top-Notch Schedule in 2009   
The Eagles are taking 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 Eastern Washington will face in Provo, Utah, on March 27.

Each of these four contests takes place on the road.

Also, Kyle Schraeder fell to Denver’s No. 84-ranked player, David Simson, 6-2, 6-2. Nico Riego de Dios fell in his match with No. 108 Kiryl Harbatsiuk of Sacramento State, 6-4, 6-4.

Schraeder and Riego de Dios teamed up for an exciting 9-8 (15-13) win over No. 59 Anton Stryhas and Harbatsiuk on Feb. 20.

On Feb. 28, the two fell to 35th-ranked Evan Schleining and Filip Zivkovic from Portland, 8-2.

Impressive Turnaround         
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 49-33 since the beginning of the 2006 season (17-7 in Big Sky Conference play) after finishing 6-52, 1-25 in league contests, the four years immediately prior (2002-05).

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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