Oct. 6, 2006
Story and photo by Brandon Hansen
To see what kind of progress the EWU Tennis team has made in the past few years, all an individual has to do is take a stroll out to the EWU Sports and Recreation Center to see the new tennis court complex signifying that the Eagles are on the rise.
"We would like to be one of the top teams in the region," said Patrick Dreves, the head coach for both the women's and men's tennis team. "We're pretty close right now."
That became apparent for the men's team on Oct. 1 when EWU sophomore Pannhara Mam won the team's home tournament, the Red Lion Invitational. Mam was a first team All-Big Sky selection last year as a freshman and has already started this season 5-0.
"This guy was built to play tennis," said Dreves. "He has a great attitude and a great work ethic."
Mam, a graduate of McKay High School in Salem, Ore, had a 12-5 record in singles play during his freshman year. In doubles competition, he and teammate Kyle Schraeder compiled a 12-7 record.
Schraeder, also a sophomore, advanced to the quarterfinals of the Red Lion Invitational before falling to top-seeded Alex Strom of Portland.
Success also struck the EWU women's tennis team, as they advanced three players to the quarterfinals of the women's version of the Red Lion Invitational on Sept. 22-24. Rachel Berger, Kasey Knox and former EWU soccer player Kerstyn Dolack all made it to the second day of the tournament, as the Eagles compiled an 11-15 record.
"Our returning players had a good tournament," said Dreves. "And it was good experience for the freshmen that competed for us. They now know what to expect."
Schools from around the Pacific Northwest came to participate in the Red Lion Invitational including Montana, Gonzaga, Idaho, Portland and Lewis-Clark State College. Dreves said that the new courts, built in 2005, had a lot to do with that.
"That really helped increase the level of the tournament," said Dreves, who also said the new courts help out with recruiting for the tennis program.
"I like to recruit kids that believe in the team aspect of the game," he said. "Most of the players that the Eagles look at are those who have been overlooked by bigger schools but still have incredible talent."
"Motivating them is simply not the issue," said Dreves.
EWU's motivation had done them well in reviving an EWU tennis program that until Mam's selection, did not have first team All-Big Sky selection since Brian Hart in 1996. Also, the men's team finished 10-8 last year, the first time an Eagles team had won 10 matches since 1985.
"The future for Eastern tennis is extremely bright," said Dreves, whose men's and women's teams improved by a combined 10 wins from 2004 to 2005. "These players, our other returning players and the new players we have coming in next year have a great work ethic and know what you need to do to be successful. I couldn't be more proud of them."
Dreves said that part of the success for the Eagles has been largely due to the workouts by EWU athletic trainer Jeffrey Kawaguchi, who also serves as the team's strength and conditioning coach.
"He's been an unbelievable addition to our program," said Dreves.
Moving up in the collegiate tennis world also means tougher competition. The men will be looking to dethrone Montana State as one of the top teams in the Big Sky Conference.
"This year will be a rebuilding season for Montana State," said Dreves.
The women will have to contend with Sacramento State, the only nationally-ranked team in the conference.
Besides the Red Lion Invitational, the Eagles will travel to Portland, Montana, and the University of Oregon for competitions this fall. The Eagles are looking forward to the challenge of playing against nationally-ranked competition at Oregon's tournament Nov. 10-12 in Eugene, Ore.
"That will be a good test for our kids before Christmas break," said Dreves. "The best tennis is the country is played on the west coast."