March 26, 2007

Road Trip Continues Versus NAU, SCC and UTEP

March 26, 2007

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The Eastern Washington Eagles will continue its 3,137-mile road trip this week with matches versus Northern Arizona, Scottsdale CC and UTEP.

The Eagles (6-9, 4-2 Big Sky Conference) will play their final Big Sky match of the season at 2 p.m. on Tuesday (March 27). The next day, Eastern Washington will take on Scottsdale CC in Phoenix at 11 a.m. before wrapping up its epic road trip with an 8 a.m. contest with UTEP on Saturday. All times listed are Pacific (Arizona is currently in MST, which is the same as PDT).

Eastern is coming off a perfect 3-0 weekend, which saw the Eagles top Weber State in a Big Sky match in clutch fashion, 4-3, before defeating Utah State in non-conference action, 5-2, and dominating Idaho State in a league contest, 7-0.

The pair of league wins earned EWU its first winning league record in school history, as the Eagles are 4-2 with one match to play. The previous school record for best league finish was 3-3, recorded by the 1998 squad.

The Eagles are currently sitting in third place, percentage points behind NAU (3-1 BSC). The winner of their Tuesday match will move into sole possession of second place.

Looking at Northern Arizona

The Lumberjacks (8-9, 3-1 BSC) are one of only two teams the Eagles are looking up to in the Big Sky Conference standings, although a win on Tuesday (March 27) would move that number to one. The winner of the EWU-NAU contest will take sole possession of second place in the Big Sky standings and only trail Sacramento State (5-0 BSC).

Looking at Scottsdale CC

The Scottsdale Artichokes started their season 1-6 and will have played four more times before meeting the Eagles on Wednesday (March 28).

Looking at UTEP

The Miners play in Conference USA and will enter their match with Eastern Washington on Saturday well rested, having last played on March 18 in a 7-0 victory over Memphis. UTEP is 8-7 on the season, 2-0 in Conference USA play, and will bring a two-match winning streak into the contest. The Miners have had an up-and-down season, rebounding from an early five-match losing streak to win four in a row. UTEP is currently on a hot stretch, having won 7-of-9 contests.

A Perfect Weekend

Eastern Washington went 3-0 in three road matches last weekend, defeating Weber State in a tight Big Sky Conference match, 4-3, before outlasting Utah State in non-conference play, 5-2, and sweeping Idaho State in a league contest, 7-0.

The Weber State contest came down to the No. 2 singles contest, where Kerstyn Dolack rallied from 6-4, 5-4 (30-15) down to win the second set, 7-5, and the deciding set, 6-4. Her win completed an impressive rally which saw the Eagles come back from losing the doubles point to earn a win for the first time this season (Eastern is currently 5-1 when winning the doubles point, 1-8 when not successful in earning the doubles tally).

A pair of Eagles in Marie Demerath and Amanda Mankovits teamed up for a dramatic 9-8 win at No. 3 doubles to clinch for Eastern the doubles point in its 5-2 win over Utah State before each rallied from one set down for singles victories. Demerath won, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 on the sixth court, while Mankovits earned a 4-6, 7-6, 6-4 victory at No. 5. The Eagles held a precarious 3-2 lead before those two results clinched the victory for Eastern.

The Eagles completed the first portion of their road trip with a dominating 7-0 win over Idaho State. The shutout victory was the first by EWU over an NCAA Division I opponent since defeating Portland State twice by 7-0 scores in 2001. The Eagles won all three doubles matches and each of the six singles contests in straight sets.

The latter victory moved Eastern Washington to 4-2 in Big Sky play, clinching for the Eagles their first winning conference record in school history (the 1998 squad went 3-3). The Eagles actually have earned as many league wins this season as they had in the previous five years combined (4-33). The Eagles entered the 2007 season 11-51 all-time in Big Sky contests.

The Eagles are 3-0 in Big Sky Conference road matches in 2007.

Overall, EWU is now 6-9, which marks the second-most number of victories an Eastern squad has earned since the 1996 team went 7-15 (last season, the Eagles went 7-13).

From 2005-07, the Eagles have gone 17-39, which is outstanding compared to the 16-106 mark earned the previous eight seasons.

Historic Win over Montana

An impressive showing against Montana moved the Eagles to 2-1 in Big Sky Conference play for the first time in school history. In fact, the Eagles at that time (2-1 BSC) had already won as many league matches in 2007 as they had in the past four years combined (2-27).

The win over the Grizzlies also snapped a 24-match losing streak the Eagles had to Montana dating to a 5-4 win on March 3, 1995.

The contest was the first of the season to be played outdoors, as it took place in very comfortable windless 50-degree temperatures.

The doubles point in the match rested with Eastern's No. 2 team of Kerstyn Dolack and Kasey Knox, who enacted a pair of memorable comebacks. With the score tied, 6-6, the duo trailed, 40-15, and rallied to win the next four rallies to go up, 7-6. Then, with Eastern on serve, the Eagles went down 40-0, but stormed back with three straight points to force deuce. Throughout that game, Dolack and Knox fought off six game points before securing the final three rallies to win the match and secure Eastern the doubles point, 8-6.

After EWU entered singles play with the momentum acquired from the doubles results, the Eagles quickly proceeded to win the first four contests to complete play to take an insurmountable 5-0 lead, before falling in the last two matches to finish. Knox clinched the team win when she broke away from a 4-4 tie in the second set to complete a 6-4, 6-4 win.

Opening the Big Sky Season in Winning Fashion

Earlier this season, the Eagles won their opening Big Sky match of the season, defeating Northern Colorado on the road in clutch fashion, 4-3, on Jan. 27.

In that contest, Eastern grabbed control of the match by claiming all three doubles contests and then winning three of the first five singles matches to complete play to secure its win.

Kasey Knox, Kerstyn Dolack and Marie Demerath were able to contribute singles and doubles wins to the mix. Demerath played a role in the clinching doubles match, teaming up with Rachel Berger for the win, and then finished off Northern Colorado as a team by virtue of an impressive 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 comeback victory in singles play.

Dolack Claims Big Sky POW Honors

Eagle soccer-turned-tennis player Kerstyn Dolack had an excellent week in the Rocky Mountains from Jan. 26-28, as she went 2-1 in both singles and doubles play and earned the initial Big Sky Conference Player of the Week honors of 2007.

In doubles play, she teamed up with Kasey Knox at the No. 1 position to defeat Northern Colorado's Tabatha Knop and Christina Shelly, 8-6, in Eastern's first Big Sky match of the season. The tandem also defeated Laura Neal and Lauren Strasburger of Colorado State, 8-5, while falling to Air Force's Liz Walker and Lauren Wilson by a close 8-6 margin.

Dolack played No. 3 singles her first two matches of the week and earned a pair of straight-set victories, topping Walker, 6-0, 7-6 (8-6), and Meredith Krystofik of Northern Colorado, 7-5, 6-3. She then moved up to the second slot her final match of the three-match trip to the Centennial State, but dropped a 6-2, 6-1 decision to Colorado State's Laura Neal.

The honor is Dolack's first. Last year, Knox won the award twice and Rachel Berger earned accolades once. Prior to 2006, the last time an Eagle achieved the honor was in 2002.

Dolack previously played forward for the Eagles soccer team from 2003-05 and saw action in 51 games, scoring four goals and adding four assists.

Top-Notch Schedule for Eagles in 2007

The Eagles are coming off an impressive 2006 season and are taking on top competition, as three nationally-ranked squads were on the slate for Eastern Washington. Eastern has already played No. 42 Washington State, 45th-ranked Sacramento State and No. 20 Oregon (current rankings).

Updated national rankings will be released on Tuesday (March 27) and can be accessed at www.itatennis.com under the "Fila Rankings" tab on the left side of the home page. Team rankings are updated every Tuesday, while singles and doubles rankings are updated every two weeks (the next one will occur on April 3).

Newcomers to the Eagle Tennis Family

There are some new staff additions to the Eagle tennis programs. Darren Haworth and Jan Steenekamp will now serve as assistant coaches, while Jeff Kawaguchi is now the strength and conditioning coach.

Haworth has experience with Dreves, as he played for the Eagle head coach at Linfield and helped lead the Wildcats to their first-ever appearance in the NCAA Division III Tournament. He would serve as an assistant coach at his alma mater from 2002-03 and, for the past year, has served as men's and women's head coach at Fresno City College.

Steenekamp is a former No. 1 singles player for Montana who earned first team All-Big Sky honors three times.

"He is one of the top players maybe ever in the Big Sky," head coach Patrick Dreves said.

Kawaguchi currently acts as an assistant athletic trainer within the EWU athletics department and works directly with the women's basketball team. He serves as an assistant professor in the Athletic Training Education Program at EWU, as well.

"Because he is a physical therapist, he understands both sides of it, not pushing kids too hard, but also understanding if they have nagging injuries," Dreves said.

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