Q and A: Tennis Player Nico Riego de Dios

Riego de Dios successful on the tennis court and in the classroom

Even though it seems like only yesterday that Nico Riego de Dios arrived at Eastern Washington University, the tennis player is about to enter his senior year at the school. In his time at the Cheney school, he has helped the Eagles to incredible heights, in the process earning some impressive individual accolades.

After an outstanding campaign in 2009, he earned All-Big Sky Conference first-team accolades for the second-successive season. Riego de Dios finished the season just one off the school record for singles wins in a season with 17. Twelve of those victories came in the No. 1 position.

In doubles play, he teamed with Kyle Schraeder for an outstanding 18-7 record to set the school record for wins by a doubles tandem in a single season. The talented duo also reached the national rankings for what is believed to be the first time by an EWU doubles team at the NCAA Division I level, placing 72nd from March 17-30.

Riego de Dios helped lead the team to Big Sky runner-up finishes in the league's regular season and tournament. As a team, Eastern Washington went 18-9 to tie for the highest win total posted by an EWU squad at the Division I level.

The year before, Eastern Washington claimed its first league crown since joining the Division I ranks by defeating Sacramento State in a thriller 4-3. That title match came down to Riego de Dios, who broke a 3-3 tie with a clutch 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 victory.

Q: Talk about how busy you were this spring and how you balanced succeeding in the classroom and on the court.

A: "Actually, I am really busy this spring. I'm taking anatomy, pre-calculus and seven credits of internship, in which I go to a physical therapy site and work with Jeff (Carroll) and Nate (Brookreson) in the strength and conditioning room. Balance wise, it is really hard. I have been putting a lot into school. After our season was done, I was just studying a lot at the library. I didn't even hold a racquet for two weeks."

Q: What do you enjoy most about the sport of tennis?

A: "I really like how competitive the sport is. You have to get ready whenever you play a match. Like my dad told me, tennis will help you in life. For example, to prepare you have to work hard, you have to sacrifice and you have to dedicate your time; same thing in life and in academics."

Q: What has been your favorite class at Eastern Washington so far?

A: "Anatomical kinesiology with Matt Silvers."

Q: What has been your favorite tennis moment?

A: "When I was playing for the last point for the Big Sky championship in 2008. It was exciting and, after I won it, I just laid on the court and cried. I blacked out. It was a great moment, but sad because we (my dad and I) played tennis since I was 5 and he was a big part of it; I cried because he wasn't there to watch me (he was in the Philippines). My dad was just a really big part of my career, my mentor in a way."

Q: During the match, at what point did you realize your match would decide it?

A: "Actually I'm getting goosebumps right now remembering that time. At that moment, everybody was watching, and it was 4-all in the third. He was serving and I broke him. I was then in a hurry to serve and knew that I wanted to dedicate this for my team and everyone, and I had four good serves and finished the match."

Q: What goals have you set for next year?

A: "This year was a good season for me and my entire team, especially Kyle (Schraeder) and me, being nationally ranked in doubles. Of course, I still want to be ranked in doubles, but I also want to be ranked in singles. The best chance will be in Las Vegas for the ITA Regionals in October. Everybody is going to be tough there and it is going to be hot, but I want to be in that position. For my team, hopefully we will still be a competitive team next year, even though most of the team will be freshmen and sophomores; I'm going to be the only senior next year."

Q: What made you decide to come to Eastern Washington? 

A: "I was playing in Tacoma at the time; I have relatives in Puyallup. (Former head coach) Patrick Dreves saw me and offered me a scholarship. I was playing a lot of tournaments abroad, and one part of my program was going to the United States. Every June-September in the Philippines it is the rainy season and there are no tournaments, but in the summer here there are tournaments everywhere."

Q: What's different about the academic environment at Eastern versus when you were growing up?

A: "In the Philippines, if you ask the teachers questions, they think, `how come you are not getting it? Am I not a good teacher?' But here, they are really welcome to answering your questions, and they are really willing to help you. Studying here is fun. And I really like how the students collaborate in class; in the Philippines, it is so competitive, `grades, grades, I have to be better than you.' And the more you ask questions here, they think the more interested you are in the class, but in the Philippines it's the opposite." 

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