Time to Play for a Championship

April 20, 2009

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For the second consecutive year, the Eastern Washington University men’s tennis team will enter the Big Sky Conference Championship as the No. 2 seed and earn the rights to a bye into the semifinals that goes with that.

The Eagles hope that the tournament itself will be a repeat of last year, which saw Eastern Washington win a pair of matches and claim a league title - and advancement into the NCAA Division I Championship - for the first time in school history (at the Division I level).

If the Eagles are successful in repeating their feat, the team will also set a school record for wins. The 2009 team is 17-8, while last year’s squad went 18-7.

Eastern Washington (6-2 BSC) will play either Montana State, Northern Arizona or Weber State at 10 a.m. on Saturday (April 25) in Gold River, Calif. The league’s championship match will start at 10 a.m. on Sunday (April 26).

The Eagles enter the Championship riding a five-match winning streak. Three of those were by 7-0 scores, one was 6-1 and the most recent result was a clutch 4-3 road win over Idaho.

Montana State wraps up its regular season at Sacramento State on Thursday (April 23) before playing a Big Sky quarterfinal match the following day. A win gives the Bobcats the No. 3 seed, while a loss will see them enter postseason as the fifth seed.

MSU enters the week with five wins in its last six matches. The Bobcats are currently 13-9, 5-2 in Big Sky play.

Northern Arizona will be the fourth seed if MSU wins and fifth if the Bobcats lose. The Lumberjacks enter the postseason 7-17, 5-3 in league contests.

Weber State will enter postseason action as the fifth seed if Montana State wins Thursday and will be fourth if MSU falls. The Wildcats are 9-10, 5-3 in Big Sky matches, and have won three straight.

Bottom line, if Montana State wins, the seedings will be as follows: No. 1 Sacramento State, No. 2 EWU, No. 3 MSU, No. 4 NAU, No. 5 WSU and No. 6 Montana.

If Sacramento State wins that contest, the seedings will be: No. 1 Sacramento State, No. 2 EWU, No. 3 NAU, No. 4 WSU, No. 5 MSU and No. 6 UM.

The third- and sixth-seeded teams play each in the quarterfinals, as do Nos. 4 and 5. The match-ups are then reseeded for the semifinals, so top-seeded Sacramento State will play the lowest-remaining seed, and the Eagles will take on the highest-remaining seed.

Big Sky Banner Unveiled  
              
On April 10, prior to Eastern Washington’s final home match of the year versus Portland State, president Dr. Rodolfo Arévalo, with the help of the team, pulled the cord to unveil the 2008 Big Sky Conference championship banner.

The title was the school’s first at the NCAA Division I level in the sport of tennis and qualified Eastern for the NCAA Tournament.

Pictures of the event may be viewed at http://goeags.cstv.com/view.gal?id=46541

Doubles Team Sets School Record          
Eastern Washington’s No. 1 duo of Nico Riego de Dios and Kyle Schraeder has recorded a 18-7 record this year and has set the school mark for wins in a season by a doubles tandem.

The record-breaking 16th came by an 8-2 score in a 7-0 defeat of Gonzaga on April 8.

The 18 wins also place the two in third place for most career wins by an EWU doubles team.

Earlier this season, the talented duo became what is believed to be the first nationally-ranked doubles team at the NCAA Division I level in Eastern history, placing 72nd in the rankings from March 17-30.

Their most impressive victory came on Feb. 20, when they outlasted Sacramento State’s 59th-ranked duo of Anton Stryhas and Kiryl Harbatsiuk in dramatic fashion, 9-8 (15-13).

In the back-and-forth tiebreaker, the Hornet pair broke serve twice to turn a 12-11 Eastern lead into a 13-12 Sacramento State advantage. However, the Eagles then returned the favor and broke serve twice themselves to go up 14-13 before securing the winning point on the next rally.

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. He has now tallied 59 wins.

He has since been joined by Kyle Schraeder, who claimed his 50th on April 10 by 6-4, 6-3 scores in a 7-0 win over Portland State.

Eagles Honored Four Times as POW    
                      
Nico Riego de Dios and Kyle Schraeder have each been named Big Sky Conference Player of the Week two times this season, earning the honors on March 31 and previously on March 10.

To earn the most recent set of honors, he went a perfect 3-0 in singles play to help Eastern to a pair of Big Sky wins over Weber State and Idaho State, 5-2 and 7-0, respectively.

To attain the earlier award, Riego de Dios helped the Eagles to a dominating 7-0 conference win over Montana State before playing well in a 4-3 non-conference loss to Idaho.

Kyle Schraeder was named the Big Sky Player of the Week on March 25 after helping the Eagles to 5-2 and 7-0 victories over Lewis-Clark State and Bethany (Kan.), respectively.  He went undefeated in his singles and doubles matches that week.

He also won the award on Jan. 27, after playing well in the month of January (the Big Sky only awarded one POW for that month due to the varying amount of matches played by league teams in January). 

The two also had pivotal roles in the other winning POW honors, as they have teamed up for perfect doubles records the weeks prior to the March 10 and 25 awards. For the season, the duo has recorded a 15-6 mark, all at the No. 1 position.

Each player has now won POW honors three times. Riego de Dios previously achieved the feat on April 8 of last season, while Schraeder did so Feb. 28 of that campaign.

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 59-35 since the beginning of the 2006 season (21-8 in Big Sky Conference play) after finishing 6-52, 1-25 in league contests, the four years immediately prior (2002-05).

Dominating the Record Book                                         
Current Eagles take up the top five spots in the listing for most career singles wins in Eastern history.

Art Karas is setting the pace with 59 victories, Kyle Schraeder has 50, Pannhara Mam has 48, while Daniel Pez has recorded 38 wins, and Nico Riego de Dios, a junior, is in fifth with 36.

In doubles, Riego de Dios and Schraeder have teamed up for 18 victories this season, setting the school record for a single season and placing third for career wins.
For complete up-to-date listings, please see page 3 of the corresponding PDF.


The Eastern Washington University women’s tennis team will play Northern Colorado in a Big Sky Conference quarterfinal contest at 2 p.m. on Friday (April 24) in Gold River, Calif.

The winner of that contest will play either Sacramento State or Montana State in the semifinals (the top-seeded Hornets will play the lowest-remaining seed in the six-team tournament).

The semifinals will start at 2 p.m. on Saturday (April 25), while the league’s championship match will be played at 2 p.m. on Sunday (April 26).

Eastern (8-14, 4-4 BSC), a fifth seed, enters the tournament looking to turn around a six-match losing streak.

The seedings for the event are: #1 Sacramento State, #2 Montana State, #3 Northern Arizona, #4 UNC, #5 EWU and #6 Montana. Complete standings and records for all league teams may be found on page 2 of the corresponding PDF. 

Northern Colorado (6-14, 4-4 BSC) is also looking to snap its own losing streak, as the Bears lost their final four matches, two of those in Big Sky play.

The Bears took the teams’ regular-season meeting in Greeley on March 22 by a 6-1 score.

Berger Sets School Record!                          
On Tuesday (April 14), Rachel Berger recorded her 41st career singles win, setting the school record in that category. Her comeback 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 win during Eastern’s match with Idaho that day snapped the share of the top spot she had held with Tina Dlouhy (1993-96).

Meanwhile, Amanda Mankovits has tallied 34 victories, tied for fourth place on that chart, while Marie Demerath is just behind her with 27 wins, in seventh place.

In doubles play, Demerath and Mankovits have teamed up for 18 career wins, the second-best total in Eastern history. Dlouhy and Sejla Serifovic (1993, 1995-96) currently hold the record of 30.

All marks date to 1991, as individual singles and doubles results are incomplete prior to that season.

Senior Class Says Goodbye                           
Three seniors played the final home match of their respective Eastern careers on Wednesday (April 15) versus Gonzaga.

Those included two four-year players in Rachel Berger and Amanda Mankovits as well as Heather Handwerk, a transfer from the Community Colleges of Spokane.

Berger and Mankovits both rank in the top five in Eastern history for career singles wins, as Berger holds the school record with 41, while Mankovits is tied for fourth with 27.

Handwerk has posted a winning record in limited singles action this year at 4-3 after seeing time in one contest last season.

The past four years, the Eagles have gone 33-56, 13-16 in Big Sky Conference matches, a significant improvement on the previous four-year span (7-59, 3-28 BSC).

Eagles Continue to Improve                           
With eight wins this year, Eastern Washington has tied for the second-highest total attained by an Eagle squad since the 1993 squad went 10-8. The only teams since then to get to at least eight wins was last year’s (10-14) and the 2007 squad (8-15).

EWU has won 33 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 12-12 the last two years after going 6-43 from 2000-06.

Also, last year the Eagles claimed their first postseason victory since 1994, 4-0 over Montana in the Big Sky quarterfinals, snapping a 29-match postseason losing streak.

Road Warriors
                                              
Eastern Washington is an impressive 6-6 in road matches this year, the best road record in the Big Sky Conference. The only team with more away wins is No. 54 Sacramento State with its 9-8 away mark.

Overall, the rest of the league is 21-58 on the road.

Eagles Pull Out Marathon Contest                      
On Feb. 27, Eastern Washington rallied from a 3-2 deficit to defeat Montana in a Big Sky Conference match that finally came to an end at 10:56 p.m., 356 minutes after it started.

The night’s dramatics were put into motion when the doubles point came down to a 90-minute No. 3 match, which saw Caitlin Bampton and Kasie King pull out an exciting 9-8 (7-2) victory.

Then the Grizzlies won three of the first four singles matches to finish play to come within the brink of a victory with a 3-2 lead.

A pair of Eagles, however, had other ideas.

King finished off an impressive third set in a 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 victory to tie the team score 3-3. Then, with all eyes on her contest, Judy Liening also prevailed impressively in her deciding stanza, finishing off a rally from a set down for a 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory.

The match continued a healthy rivalry between the teams, as Eastern had eliminated Montana from the postseason a year ago, 4-0 in the Big Sky quarterfinals (in the process, snapping a 29-match postseason losing streak), while the Grizzlies had rallied from a 3-2 deficit to defeat EWU in the quarterfinal round the year before 4-3.

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