April 3, 2007

Bring on the Zags

April 3, 2007

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The Eastern Washington Eagles will wrap up its 2006-07 regular season with a trio of matches over the next couple weeks, the first two coming against rival Gonzaga. The intial Eagle-Bulldog contest will be played in Cheney at 3 p.m. on Thursday (April 5). That match will also be Eastern's final home one of the season.

The Eagles wrapped up a 3,137-mile road trip last week and went 3-2 in the five contests, including 2-1 in Big Sky Conference contests to complete the conference season with a 4-3 mark, its best in school history.

After an extremely busy March (11 matches), the Eagles will ease up a bit at the beginning of April, only playing once in the initial 11 days of the month and just three times in total before the Big Sky Tournament from April 27-29, to be played in Sacramento, Calif.

Yoshimoto Plays Final Home Match

Eagle senior Sayaka Yoshimoto will play the final home match of her Eagle career on Thursday (April 5) versus the Zags.

She has helped contribute to Eastern's dramatic turnaround the last several years, which has seen EWU rally from an 0-14 season the season before the Cal State Northridge transfer arrived in Cheney to go 6-11 this year and 4-3 in Big Sky Conference play, its first winning league record in school history.

Yoshimoto played No. 1 singles and doubles for the Eagles in 2005 and split that singles position the next year with Kasey Knox while also playing No. 1 doubles on 11 occasions that campaign. This season, she has contributed at No. 6 singles and No. 1 doubles.

The 14 wins that she and Knox have earned as a doubles tandem in their career places the duo in a second-place tie on the all-time EWU career doubles wins chart.

Looking at Gonzaga

Gonzaga is 4-14 on the season and has gone 0-4 against West Coast Conference schools while splitting its two matches versus Big Sky Conference teams (losing to Montana State, 4-2, and defeating Montana, 5-2). The Bulldogs most recently lost in Moscow to the Idaho Vandals, 6-1, on Saturday (March 31).

A Perfect Weekend

Eastern Washington went 3-0 in three road matches from March 23-25, 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, 1-10 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 successful weekend 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 (EWU would finish 4-3 in league contests), 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 went 3-1 in Big Sky Conference road matches in 2007.

Overall, EWU is now 6-11, 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 17-41, which is outstanding compared to the 16-106 mark earned the previous eight seasons.

Demerath Takes Home Big Sky Player of the Week Honors

Eastern Washington University women's tennis player Marie Demerath earned Co-Big Sky Conference Player of the Week honors for her performances over the weekend, helping lead the Eagles to 4-3 wins over Weber State and a 7-0 whitewashing of Idaho State. She became the second Eagle this season to be so named after Kerstyn Dolack did so the last week of January.

After starting the weekend's play on a sour note, losing in doubles play (with Amanda Mankovits) in Eastern's match with Weber State on March 23, she responded in impressive fashion by not tasting a loss the rest of the weekend in either singles or doubles play.

Demerath helped rally Eastern Washington to its first win of the season when losing the doubles point against the Wildcats. Her 6-2, 6-4 victory was the second singles contest to finish and earned EWU a 2-1 advantage at that point on its way to a 4-3 win.

The next day against Utah State, she and Mankovits, with the doubles point riding on their result, dramatically pulled through with a 9-8 victory. In singles, she rallied from a first-set loss for the first time this season for a 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 victory to secure Eastern an insurmountable 4-2 lead on its way to a 5-2 win.

Then on March 25 against Idaho State, she helped lead the Eagles to their first 7-0 victory over an NCAA Division I opponent in six years with singles and doubles wins.

The team victories clinched for Eastern its first winning conference season in school history. Incredibly, EWU won as many league contests this season (4-3) as it had in the previous five years combined (4-33). Overall, EWU is 6-10 and has the second-most number of victories for an Eastern squad since the 1996 team went 7-15 (last year's team went 7-13).

Sharing the Co-Big Sky Player of the Week honors was Sacramento State's Joyce Martinez Gutierrez.

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.

Her 20 career wins so far have placed her in fifth place on the all-time EWU career singles wins chart.

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.

Knox Making History

Eastern Washington junior Kasey Knox is making history this year and throughout her career as an Eagle, as she is currently tied for 10th for most dual-match singles wins in a season (9) and is third in career victories (23).

She is also tied for the third-most wins at No. 1 singles in a season in Eagle history. Her nine victories tie Tina Dlouhy's 1994 and 1996 campaigns and only trails Dlouhy's 1993 (10) and 1995 seasons (12).

As a doubles tandem, she and Sayaka Yoshimoto teamed up for 11 wins in 2005, tying for the second-highest total. The two have teamed up for 14 career wins, which is tied for second on that chart. Knox and Kerstyn Dolack, who have played together the majority of 2007, have earned eight wins this season, nine over the past two years.

Records are since 1991, as they are incomplete prior to that season.

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. 41 Washington State, 52nd-ranked Sacramento State and No. 31 Oregon (current rankings).

The lone nationally-ranked singles or doubles opponent is No. 117 Katrina Zheltova of Sacramento State, who defeated Kasey Knox in No. 1 singles in the team's meeting on Feb. 9.

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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