Grizzlies Handle Eagles, 5-2

Freshman Helon Ricks wins at No. 6 singles to remain undefeated in Big Sky action

The Eastern Washington University women's tennis team suffered a 5-2 setback at the hands of the Montana Grizzlies on Saturday (Feb. 26) at the Jim Thorpe Fieldhouse in Cheney, Wash.

With the loss, Eastern fell to 5-7 in the 2011 season, and 1-2 in league play, while Montana improved to 5-5 on the season and a perfect 3-0 in Big Sky outings.

"The loss in conference is unfortunate, but we played with a lot of heart today," said EWU associate head coach Dale Silha. "Montana is a very good team from top to bottom – certainly one of the best in the Big Sky. We fought really hard and battled on every point. The match really boiled down to just a couple points here and there. It was great to see the girls fired up, especially coming off a tough weekend on the road. We should be very proud of our effort."

The Grizzlies earned the coveted doubles point after sweeping the Eags at No. 1, 2 and 3, but none of the wins came too easy for the Lady Griz. UM's No. 1 pair of Rebecca Bran and Whitney Paluch, who is ranked 10th in the Mountain region, nabbed a narrow 8-6 victory over Eastern's Judy Liening and Nefeli Diamanti.

Junior Caitlin Bampton and sophomore Chelsea Patton fell at No. 2 doubles, 8-4, while sophomore Rocio Norena and freshman Helon Ricks dropped an 8-5 decision to Lauren Gibson and Heather Davidson at the No. 3 spot.

Montana was able to clinch the match after winning three of the first four singles matches at 2, 3 and 4, but two of the next three matches to finish went to Eastern.

Bampton dug deep to beat Davidson in a three-set battle at No. 1 singles. The first two sets of the match went to tiebreakers with Bampton owning the first one, 7-6 (7-5), and Davidson the second, 7-6 (8-6). Bampton prevailed in the third, 1-0 (10-6).

Ricks won her third-straight Big Sky singles match to remain undefeated in conference when she bested Gibson, 7-6 (7-1), 6-2. Ricks, a product of Lakeside High School in Hot Springs, Ark., now has the most singles victories of any player on the EWU squad. She is 7-4 on the year with four wins at No. 5 and three at No. 6.

The Eagles will be back on the road for its next competition, as they play a non-conference match at Wyoming on Saturday (March 5) before taking on Big Sky foe Northern Colorado on Sunday (March 6).

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