Sanchez wins in straight sets to remain undefeated at No. 3 singles
The box score may read 6-1, but the match itself was much closer.
The Eastern Washington University men's tennis team forced five tiebreakers and three three-set matches on Friday (Feb. 25) in Ogden, Utah, but in the end, Weber State proved to have the upper hand, defeating Eastern, 6-1 in a Big Sky Conference dual match.
With the loss, Eastern dropped to 4-5 in the 2011 season and 1-1 in Big Sky action, while WSU improved to 3-7 on the season and 2-1 in league play.
The Eagles had their chance to go up early, but a few critical missteps at No. 3 doubles cost EWU the first point of the day, and some valuable momentum heading into singles.
Weber State won at No. 1 doubles with an 8-5 decision over junior Stefan Simikic and sophomore Kyle Koetje, but the Eagles answered with a big victory at No. 2. Juniors Chad Henninger and Julian Sanchez prevailed, 9-8 in the first of five tiebreakers on the day between the Eags and Wildcats.
The doubles point would then come down to sophomore Chris Eriksson and freshman James Russell in the No. 3 position. Heading into the match, Eriksson and Russell were undefeated as a doubles team in the 2011 season.
With a one-game advantage at 7-6, the Eagles found themselves serving match point at 40-30. But WSU came up with a fierce return that Eastern could not control, sending it to deuce. The Wildcats went on to win the next two points, and thus the game. WSU won the next game as well, but Eastern found a way to tie it back up at 8-8. However, the Eagle duo was deflated after giving up match point, and lost the tiebreaker, 7-5.
"If we could have pulled it out at No. 3 and won the doubles point, I think that changes the entire match," said EWU head coach Darren Haworth. "It is much easier to win three singles matches than four. But I was proud of our effort. We played pretty well today against a very good Weber State team."
Eastern's lone point of the day came at No. 3 singles, as junior Julian Sanchez took down P. Ramstromer Pello in straight sets, 7-6, 6-3. Sanchez is undefeated at 4-0 this season when playing at No. 3. He has won three-consecutive singles matches, and has the most overall victories of any player on the squad with six.
At No. 1 singles, sophomore Fernando Mussolini jumped out to an early lead after besting Simon Unger in the first set, 6-3. Unfortunately, Unger worked out the kinks and rallied to win the next two sets, 6-4, 6-2.
Junior Stefan Simikic, who was pitted against the reigning Big Sky POW Ciao Poitena, had a similar result at No. 4 singles. Simikic won his first set, 6-1, but then fell in back-to-back tiebreakers, 7-6, 7-6.
Sophomore Kyle Koetje also endured a three-set match, but could not find a way to outlast WSU's Dave Hintze, who took the match, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
"Like in any sport, home court advantage is huge in tennis, and today, Weber State did a good job defending home court," said Haworth. "I thought we looked solid and competed well though. There was a point when we were up a set in three of the top four singles spots, but Weber grabbed the momentum late and came up with the big wins when they needed to."
The Eagles will continue conference play on Sunday when they travel to Pocatello to face Idaho State at 9 a.m. PST.