Eagles Edge Gonzaga in a Thrilling Midweek Showdown

After a sweep of doubles, Eastern holds on for exciting 4-3 win against Bulldogs

The Eastern Washington University men's tennis team was put to the test Wednesday (Feb. 22) against cross-town rival Gonzaga, but the Eagles got the job done for their fourth-straight win against the Zags. With the 4-3 victory at the Jim Thorpe Fieldhouse in Cheney, EWU extended its season record to 7-3, with the three losses all coming against nationally-ranked opponents.

"I am really happy with way we competed tonight," said EWU head coach Darren Haworth. "We are improving little by little with each match. I am excited about this team and how hard the guys have worked to get the wins this season."

With the match tied at 3-3, junior Kyle Koetje found himself down at set in the clincher at No. 6 singles. Gonzaga's Muzeen Ismath took the first set 6-3, but with the weight of the match on his shoulders, Koetje came up big for his team. The Arlington, Wash., native battled back to win the next two sets, 6-3, 6-4.

"Kyle just hung in there and didn't let himself get too rattled," said Haworth. "He came back after dropping that first set and played some really solid tennis against a guy who was playing quite well himself."

Senior Ilija Cuic and sophomore Mario Navarro also helped Eastern's cause, as they recorded wins at No. 1 and No. 3 singles, respectively.

In the first set, Cuic managed to win out in a tiebreaker against Alvaro Nazal, 7-6 (7-5). The second set was also competitive, but Cuic had the edge, winning 6-4.

Navarro survived a three-set match at No. 3 against Gonzaga's Olivier Jamin. Navarro took the first set 6-3, before falling in the second by the same score. In the decisive third, Navarro owned Jamin, 6-2.

"Ilija and Mario stepped up big for us," said Haworth. "They played some great tennis."

Sophomore James Russell lost in straight sets at No. 2 singles, as did seniors Chad Henninger and Julian Sanchez at No. 4 and 5, respectively.

Henninger fell to Zhia Hwa Chong, 6-3, 6-2, for his first loss in the 2012 campaign. The Eugene, Ore., native had a singles record of 7-0 heading into Wednesday's duel.

Eastern started off the night with three-straight wins in doubles, thus earning the coveted doubles point, which to no surprise, turned out to be quite important. Although the Eagles did sweep, two of the three matches were certainly nail-biters.

Cuic and Koetje made quick work of Jamin and Vladimir Mijatovic at No. 1, 8-3. But the match at No. 2 required extra points, as Navarro and Russell outlasted Chong and Scott Sullivan, 9-7.

Henninger and Sanchez won their fifth match of the season as doubles partners, with an 8-6 decision at No. 3.

Eastern will have more than a week off before its next competition against Lewis-Clark State on Friday (March 2) in Lewiston, Idaho.

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