April 23, 2008
The Eastern Washington University men's tennis team brings a six-match winning streak into the Big Sky Conference Championship this weekend.
The Eagles, holders of a two seed, will take on an opponent to be determined at 2 p.m. on Saturday (April 26) in a semifinal contest. The winner will advance to the league's championship match, to be played at 2 p.m. on Sunday (April 27).
Eastern Washington's opponent in the semifinals will be the highest-remaining seed, No. 3 Weber State (13-10, 6-2 BSC), No. 4 Montana State (12-11, 5-3 BSC) or No. 5 Northern Arizona (7-14, 4-4 BSC).
Eastern Washington dominated both Weber State and Montana by 6-1 scores on Friday and Sunday (April 18 and 20), respectively, to claim sole possession of second place.
The only team the Eagles (16-6, 7-1 BSC) have lost to in conference play is regular-season champion Sacramento State. That came in a tight 4-3 affair played in California's capital city. The team result came down to a 6-4 decision in the third set of the final singles match to finish play.
"We are looking to give it our best shot and hopefully come home with a championship," interim head coach Darren Haworth said. "It's as a good a chance as we can have, and I'm really confident that we can go and win it all. They are peaking at the right time and the camaraderie is at an all-time high."
"The most important thing is that I want everybody to enjoy the experience of being at the tournament. It's such a great opportunity and says a lot about the athletes we are bringing in here - they are hard workers and have come a long way this year."
The Gold River Racquet Club, located in Gold River, Calif., just outside of Sacramento, will play host to the Championship.
Complete men's and women's brackets may be found on page 4 of the above PDF.
Winningest Season of Division I Era
The Eastern Washington Eagles have clinched four school records, including most wins, most Big Sky Conference victories, best winning percentage and longest winning streak (since joining the NCAA Division I era in 1984).
From Feb. 2-March 8, Eastern had a nine-match winning streak, the longest ever seen at the school at the Division I level. The previous mark was eight, set from March 2-April 12, 1985.
The Eagles are 16-6 and 7-1 in Big Sky contests.
"What's gone right this year is the camaraderie of the team; they all have a great deal of respect for each other and that has led them to push each other throughout the season," interim head coach Darren Haworth said. "There really has not been a day that someone has not come out and worked his hardest, and that's what it takes for a team to be successful."
The best previous season in school history in terms of win total came last year, when the Eagles finished 14-12, 5-2 in league contests.
The top winning percentage prior to 2008 was attained by the 1985 squad, which recorded a .565 winning percentage (13-10).
In fact, prior to the past three years (40-26 cumulative record, 15-6 in Big Sky play, and three-straight winning seasons), the Eagles had 19 straight losing records (perhaps 20, as results from the 1987 season are incomplete).
In the four years from 2002-05, EWU went 6-52, 1-25 in league contests.
Mam and Karas Battle for Record
With a 7-6, 6-1 straight-sets win over Idaho State's Marc Pijoan on March 1, junior Pannhara Mam rewrote the Eagle record book, as he took over sole possession of the school record for wins in a career with 34.
He has, however, since been caught by Art Karas, as the two have battled for the top spot in the record book ever since the beginning of March.
Currently, Karas holds the record with 43 victories, while Mam is just behind with 42 wins.
In doubles play, Mam and Schraeder have teamed up for 41 career wins to take over the top spot in that category. Jonathan Davis and Millican are in the second spot on that chart with 33 victories.
Impressively, Karas and Nico Riego De Dios have earned 14 wins in 2008 to not only take over sole possession on the single-season record chart, but tie for third on the career listings.
Elsewhere in the single-season doubles listings, Mam and Schraeder have tallied 12 victories this year, good for a third-place tie.
In the single-season singles listings, Karas took over the school record with a 6-0, 7-6 (7-5) win at No. 5 in Eastern's 6-1 defeat of Montana on Sunday (April 20).
In fact, current Eagles take up eight of the top 10 spots on that chart, four of them this year and four last year. Following Karas with outstanding 2008 performances are Schraeder (15, tied for third), Mam (14, fifth) and Daniel Pez (13, tied for sixth).
Pez has gone an incredible 13-1 this year (.929 winning percentage).
What a Turnaround!
The Eastern Washington Eagles have gone 40-26 in the past three seasons combined, which is especially remarkable considering it took the previous 13 teams to add up to that many wins (the 1993-05 squads went 45-170).
In conference matches, the difference is even more pronounced. From 2006-08, Eastern went 15-6 in Big Sky contests. From 1997 (the first year the Big Sky played a regular-season slate) through 2005, its record was 4-53.
EWU at the Championship
At last year's Big Sky Conference Championship, the Eagles had an incredible run to the championship match.
In doing so, Eastern Washington earned its first and second postseason wins ever recorded in the NCAA Division I era. The Eagles had entered the tournament with an all-time 0-40 postseason record and finished it with a 2-1 mark.
Riego de Dios and Karas Named POW
Riego de Dios had a 4-0 week in helping the Eagles to a clutch 4-3 win over Portland and a 7-0 blanking of Portland State in a Big Sky match.
Against the Pilots, he rallied for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 singles victory.
Karas also had a perfect week, as he helped EWU to 6-1 defeats of Weber State and Montana to help Eastern clinch second place in the league and the second seed at this week's Big Sky Championship.
He won each of his singles matches in straight sets.
Top-Notch Schedule for Eagles in 2008
The Eagles have taken on top-notch competition this year, having played five matches versus top-75 opponents.
After competing with No. 68 BYU in a 4-3 road loss on Jan. 19, the Eagles fell to No. 23 Washington 7-0 on March 14 and to 52nd-ranked Fresno State 6-1 on March 26.
Also, UW's Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan, ranked 82nd nationally, defeated Pannhara Mam 6-2, 6-1, while Fresno State's Rudolf Siwy, ranked 104th, defeated Mam, 6-4, 6-3.