Eagles Looking to Get Back on Track at Wyoming and Northern Colorado

Eastern hits the road to play non-conference opponent Wyoming and Big Sky rival UNC

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The Eastern Washington University women's tennis team is hungry for a win.

The Eagles won four of their first six matches to open the 2011 campaign, but have faltered as of late, dropping five of their last six, including two in a row in conference.

Eastern will look to turn things around this weekend when it heads east to face Wyoming and Northern Colorado. The Eagles will play Wyoming in a non-conference match on Saturday (March 5) in Laramie before taking on league rival Northern Colorado on Sunday (March 6) in Greeley.

The Eagles are 5-7 on the season, and 1-2 in Big Sky action. Eastern beat Idaho State, 4-3 in its 2011 conference debut, but then came up short against Weber State and Montana, falling 5-2 in both contests.

Although Eastern, as a team, has struggled to nab victories in its last few outings, a few individual players have stepped it up with some brilliant matches in the last month.

Freshman Helon Ricks has won five of her last seven singles matches, and is currently undefeated in the Big Sky. Ricks, a native of Hot Springs, Ark., beat ISU and WSU while playing at No. 5 singles, and recently defeated Montana in the No. 6 spot. She leads the team in total victories this year with seven.

In her first match of the year playing at No. 1 singles, junior Caitlin Bampton defeated Montana's Heather Davidson in a marathon match in Cheney. Bampton prevailed after three sets and two tiebreakers, 7-6 (7-5), 6-7 (6-8), 1-0 (10-6).

Sophomores Chelsea Patton and Ryann Warner also earned impressive victories over Idaho State and Weber State, respectively.

Before diving back into conference play, Eastern will take on Wyoming at the UW Tennis Facility in Laramie. The Cowgirls are 6-3 on the year, which includes a 7-0 victory over Northern Colorado. Wyoming also beat UC-Irvine (4-3), who was ranked No. 65 in the nation at the time.

On Sunday, Northern Colorado will be looking for its first win in conference play against EWU. The Bears lost to Montana, 6-1, earlier in the season and then dropped a 4-3 decision to Portland State in its most recent Big Sky outing.

Northern Colorado was picked to finish seventh in this year's preseason coaches' poll, garnering 27 total votes. Eastern has won three of the last four meetings with UNC, including a narrow 4-3 victory in Cheney in the 2010 campaign. The Eagles won the doubles point in the match last season, and then captured the W after Patton, Kelsey Knight and Judy Liening won at No. 3, 4 and 5 singles.

Eagle Tennis News & Notes

Helon Has Hot Hand in Big Sky Duels: Freshman Helon Ricks is undefeated in Big Sky singles action, winning her first three matches of the conference season. Against the ISU, Ricks clinched the match for Eastern after rallying back from a one-set deficit. She lost the first set to Laura Severino at No. 5 singles, but then won 12 of the next 16 games to take the match 3-6, 6-4, 6-0. Against the Wildcats, Ricks beat Kristi Russell in straight sets at No. 5, 6-3, 6-2. Most recently, she was one of two Eagles to record a win against Montana, as she bested Lauren Gibson, 7-6 (7-1), 6-2.

Eagles Excel in Three-Set Affairs: So far in the 2011 season, Eastern Washington has gone 7-4 when playing in three-set matches. Against Portland on Feb. 4, Eastern won both three setters played in the match. Junior Caitlin Bampton defeated Alice Tucker at No. 3 singles, 7-6 (7-5), 1-6, 6-3. Sophomore Chelsea Patton, who was playing at No. 4, dropped her first set to Stephanie Fuchs, but then rallied back to win the second and third sets, 6-3, 6-2. Senior Judy Liening is undefeated in three-set matches this year, and both of her wins came after falling in the first set. Freshman Helon Ricks won the first Big Sky match of her career after beating Idaho State's Laura Severino, 3-6, 6-4, 6-0. Most recently, Bampton took down Montana's No. 1 player, Heather Davidson, in a marathon match in Cheney. Bampton prevailed 7-6 (7-5), 6-7 (6-8), 1-0 (10-6).

Patton is Top Player at No. 3: EWU sophomore Chelsea Patton is undefeated this season when playing in the No. 3 spot. She is currently the top No. 3 singles player in the Big Sky with a 3-0 record. Patton won back-to-back matches against Whitworth and Seattle, and then defeated Dorothy Chon of Lewis-Clark State College, 6-3, 6-3. The Boise, Idaho native also has two wins at No. 4 and one at No. 1.

Injury Report: They say lightning doesn't strike the same plac twice, but redshirt-sophomore Kelsey Knight would have to disagree. Knight recently suffered a torn ACL in her left knee. The injury occurred while playing Gonzaga at the Spokane Racquet Club on Jan. 26. Two years ago, Knight tore the ACL in her right knee while playing in the exact same facility on the exact same court. Knight is projected to have surgery in March, but will be out for the rest of the 2011 season.

Eagles Go 3-0 in Opening Weekend: Eastern Washington opened its 2011 campaign with three wins in two days. The Eagles swept Whitworth and Whitman, and dropped only one point in its 6-1 defeat of cross-state rival Seattle. Eastern clinched the doubles point against the Redhawks after two incredible comebacks at No. 1 and No. 2. At No. 2 doubles, Chelsea Patton and Helon Ricks found themselves down 7-4 to Seattle's Weissman and Lucas. The Eagle duo then rallied to win five of the next six games, including a tiebreaker at 8-8, to eventually win the match, 9-8. The No. 1 doubles pair of Caitlin Bampton and Kelsey Knight also overcame some early adversity, as they trailed Seattle 4-2 to start the match. EWU was able to eventually gut out the win with a 9-7 decision.

Eagles in Middle of Pack According to BSC Preseason Poll: The Eagle women were selected fifth in the 2011 Big Sky Preseason coaches poll. EWU garnered 36 points in the poll to finish behind unanimous favorite Sacramento State (64), second-place Northern Arizona (55) and Montana (52) and Montana State (38). Eastern's preseason ranking seemed quite fitting, considering the Eagles have finished fifth in the conference in each of the last two seasons. EWU earned a 4-4 league record in both 2009 and 2010. With the BSC tournament field being reduced from six to four in the 2010 season, Eastern just missed the cut for postseason competition.

2011 BSC Preseason Poll   2010 Record  
School (first-place votes)   Total Points   Big Sky Overall
Sacramento State (8) 64 8-0 19-9
Northern Arizona (1) 55 6-2 13-10
Montana 52 4-4 8-13
Montana State 38 7-1 11-9
Eastern Washington 36 4-4 8-15
Weber State 29 2-6 5-17
Northern Colorado 27 4-4 6-15
Idaho State 13 0-8 0-16

Knight and Warner Return after Impressive 2010 Campaign: Junior Kelsey Knight and sophomore Ryann Warner were the only two Eagles to record a winning record in singles play during the 2010 season. Knight went 11-10 on the season, playing primarily at No. 2 singles, while Warner earned an overall record of 11-9, with a majority of those wins coming at the No. 6 spot. Knight and Warner's 11 wins in the 2010 season were enough to crack the top ten list of the EWU record book. Knight and Warner are currently tied for ninth on Eastern's all-time single-season wins list with those 11 victories. The school record is held by Kasey Knox, who garnered 14 wins in 2007.

Eastern's Upperclassmen Appear in Career Record Book: Of Eastern's eight returning players, only two are of junior or senior status, and both of those upperclassmen have made their way into the EWU record book for career singles wins. Senior Judy Liening is eighth on the list with 23 total wins in her career. Junior Caitlin Bampton is tied for ninth with 21 singles victories.

Two New Faces for 2011: In addition to his eight returners, associate head coach Dale Silha added two new players to the 2011 roster. Nefeli Diamanti, a native of Athens, Greece, transferred to Eastern after spending two years with the Cal St. Bakersfield Roadrunners. While at CSUB, Diamanti compiled an overall singles record of 7-28, while going 5-28 in doubles play. Before coming to the United States, Diamanti ranked as high as No. 3 among U18 players in Greece. Ricks is a product of Lakeside High School in Hot Springs, Ark. She won the girls singles title at the 2006 Arkansas 5A State Championship, and was a finalist in 2007 and 2008. She played at No. 1 singles as a freshman, sophomore and junior, tallying a 51-2 overall record during those years. She also played on the USTA junior competitive circuit, where she ranked as high as 49th in southern section in both singles and doubles play.

Eagles Sign Two High School Standouts to National Letters of Intent: Moira Hedberg of Oxnard, Calif., and Chrissy Uriarte of Las Vegas, Nev., will join the Eagle women's tennis program as freshmen in the fall of 2011.According to tennisrecuriting.net, Hedberg is tabbed as a four-star recruit and is among the top 40 players in the Southwest region. She achieved her highest junior ranking of 144 in 2010 after tallying a 22-29 overall record in national tournaments. She has recorded two wins over five-star recruits and six wins against other four-star athletes. Throughout her preparatory career, Hedberg earned an incredible 186-10 overall record in singles play. She has captured the Pacific View League singles title for four-consecutive years, and was named the PVL Player of the Year in 2008, 2009 and 2010. She is also a four-time Ventura County Star first-team selection and is a member of the National Honor Society. In addition to Hedberg, the Eagles welcome another player who has been mentioned among the nation's best juniors. Uriarte has been ranked in the top 100 on tennisrecruiting.net for the past four years, and in 2007 and 2008, she was ranked in the top 50. She achieved her highest juniors ranking of 44 in 2007 after garnering multiple wins at some of the most competitive tournaments in the country, including the Copper Bowl, the Easter Bowl Spring National, the Junior Orange Bowl International Championships and the USTA National Open Championships. Uriarte is a native of Las Vegas, Nev., and competed one season at Coronado High School before transferring to the Advantage Tennis Academy in Irvine, Calif., for her sophomore year. Uriarte saw early success at the ATA, including a sixth-place finish in the 18 and younger division at the 2008 Snowball Intermountain Sectional Tournament. Unfortunately, the rest of her season was hampered after she came down with an illness. Uriarte returned to Nevada and began competing again for Coronado during her senior year. She finished third overall at the 2010 Class 4A State Championships.

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