Eastern, now 8-11 on the season, returns to Cheney to host Gonzaga and Big Sky favorite Sac State in week ahead
For the second week in a row, the Eastern Washington University men's tennis team had its agenda slightly interrupted by Mother Nature. All matches at the Boise State Spring Break Classic on Friday and Saturday (March 24-25) were moved to the indoor tennis complex on the Boise State campus due to heavy rains in the area, and it was decided doubles would not be played unless needed to break a tie from singles play.
The change in format kept Eastern from demonstrating its greatest strength of the 2011 campaign. The Eagles have won 62 percent of its doubles matches this season, including a 12-3 mark in conference play. In the last seven outings, Eastern's No. 3 doubles team of sophomore Chris Eriksson and freshman James Russell has lost only one match, and that was to No. 19 Washington. Eastern's No. 2 pair of juniors Julian Sanchez and Chad Henninger have had similar success, winning eight of its last 10 doubles contests.
In the first round of the Boise State Spring Break Classic, the Eagles were pitted against host-school Boise State – a team ranked No. 61 in the nation according to the most recent list released by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association on March 22.
The Eagles played a competitive match against No. 61 BSU, but the Broncos managed to advance with a 6-0 victory. Boise State ended up winning the entire tournament with a 4-3 victory over No. 57 Idaho in the championship match.
Sophomore Fernando Mussolini lost at No. 1 singles to one of the top 100 players in the nation in Damina Hurne. Mussolini, who now owns a 9-9 record in singles play, fell to BSU's Hurne, 6-2, 6-3.
Junior Stefan Simikic, who transferred from Boise State in 2009, played a tight match at No. 4 singles against Nathan Sereke, but eventually fell 7-5, 6-2.
In the second round, Eastern faced a familiar foe in Portland. The Eagles and Pilots had met once already this season on Jan. 29 in Portland. The Pilots won that dual 6-1. On Friday (March 25) afternoon in Boise, Eastern fell again, this time by a score of 5-1. Mussolini, who was playing at No. 2 singles for a change, earned Eastern's only point of the match, as she bested UP's Bryan Thorp, 6-2, 6-3.
Simikic played another close match, forcing a tiebreaker in his first set at No. 3 singles. But the junior from Laguna Niguel, Calif., ended up losing to Portland's Geoff Hernandez, 7-6, 6-2.
It was Eagles vs. Eagles in the final consolation match on Saturday (March 25), as Eastern played the Golden Eagles of Marquette – a team from the Big East Conference. Marquette handed EWU its 11th loss of the season with a 6-0 sweep in singles.
Eastern had three freshmen playing in the match, including Luis Altimires, who was making his first career-appearance for EWU at No. 6 singles. Altimires fell to Jonathan Schwerin, 6-4, 6-3. Freshman Mario Navarro dropped his match at No. 2 singles, 7-5, 6-3, while James Russell was just barely edged by Thibault Troude at No. 5.
Russell lost the first set, 6-4, but came back to force a third when he won the second with a 7-5 decision. Unfortunately, Troude prevailed in the match-breaker set, 1-0 (10-2).
"Our level of play definitely got stronger and stronger as the tournament went on," said EWU head coach Darren Haworth. "This event was a good opportunity for some of our guys to play in different positions, and Luis played for the first time this season and did really well. Overall, I was happy with our efforts at this very competitive tournament."
Eastern will return home to play Gonzaga on Tuesday (March 29) at 5 p.m. Eastern defeated GU 4-3 in Spokane earlier in the season, which included a clean sweep of the doubles matches.
"We are really looking forward to getting back on our home courts after several busy weeks on the road," said Haworth. "We haven't been able to play doubles in our last few matches, so we are definitely excited to play Gonzaga on Tuesday and get back into the doubles routine before we take on a very talented Sac State team."
Following the non-conference matchup on Tuesday, the Eags will host Big Sky perennial power Sacramento State on Friday (April 1) at 2 p.m. The Hornets are currently 4-0 in conference. Eastern is 3-2.