Freshman Luke Thompson clinches the nail-biting match for EWU, as Eagles win seventh-straight over in-state rival
Based on recent experience, the Eastern Washington University men’s tennis team knew this match was going to be battle - and that’s exactly what it was.
In a fierce matchup late Saturday (Feb. 9) night between Eastern and its west-side rival Seattle U, the Eagles prevailed, 5-2. The win came a day after Eastern suffered a 7-0 loss to No. 24 Washington.
EWU has now won seven-consecutive matches against the Redhawks, but none have come easy.
Last year, Eastern narrowly escaped with a 4-3 victory, after senior Kyle Koetje clinched the match with a win at No. 6 singles. In the two seasons before that, Eastern edged SU by a score of 5-2.
In the 2013 edition, Eastern’s challenge was even greater after its No. 1 player, Joseph Cohen, had to withdraw moments before the match started due to injury. Cohen, who was recently tabbed as Big Sky Player of the Week, had played all five matches this year in the top spot.
“We had to make some last-minute adjustments, literally minutes before the match, due to injury and sickness,” said EWU head coach Darren Haworth. “But we had some guys step up and the entire team rallied behind one another. It was one of the best team efforts I’ve ever witnessed as a coach here.”
The intensity of the match began right away in doubles. Eastern’s No. 3 pair of sophomore Eduardo Martinez and freshman Luke Thompson finished first, as they won easily, 8-0. But Seattle quickly evened the score when Jason Bediones and Kevin Lynch upended EWU’s freshman duo of Arturo Carpio and Eduard Bringold by a score of 8-5.
It came down to the match at No. 1, where senior Kyle Koetje and freshman Tomas Aranguiz battled SU’s Will Topp and Zach Kosanke to a tiebreaker. Playing for the first time this year at the No. 1 spot, the Eagle pair handled the added pressure and came up with an exciting 7-4 decision in the tiebreaker to give Eastern an early 1-0 lead.
The Eagles then extended their advantage to 3-0 when Martinez and Koetje won their matches at No. 1 and 4 singles, respectively.
Martinez outlasted Lynch in a close match at No. 1, 6-4, 6-3, while Koetje cruised past Bediones, 6-4, 6-0.
“Kyle and Eduardo really stepped up and got the team rallying,” said Haworth. “They played some awesome points and played with a ton of intensity, and it was infectious through the rest of the team.”
Although Eastern was in a strong position, the Redhawks charged back, winning the next two matches at No. 2 and 3.
After winning his first set handily (6-1), Aranguiz ended up lost the next two to Topp, 6-2, 6-2. Bringold fell is straight sets to Kosanke, 6-4, 6-4.
At the time those two matches finished, the Eagles were also down at No. 5 and 6. Farrar had lost his first set to SU’s Kyle Rapp in the No. 6 spot, while Thompson was down 3-0 in the first set of his dual at No. 5.
Eastern would need one of these two rookies to pull through in order to claim the W, but in this case, both did.
Thompson ended up clinching the match when he rallied from the 3-0 deficit to win in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4.
Farrar also had an inspiring comeback, as he won the second set, 6-4 and prevailed in the matchbreaker, 10-5.
“It was great to see two freshmen step up and get those big wins,” said Haworth. “I expected these guys to come out and fight hard, but the team support was incredible. Everyone rallied behind one another and encouraged throughout the match. That is something we’ve really been trying to focus on in practice, and it showed up today.”
Eastern also played the No. 24-ranked Huskies on its trip to the west side, but dropped that match 7-0.
At No. 3 doubles, Carpio and Bringold forced a tiebreaker against UW’s Nic Lundardi and Dragos Puscalau, but Washington proved to have the slight edge, winning 8-7 (5).
In singles, Cohen played a strong match at No. 1 against Washington’s Emmett Egger, who is ranked 10th in the Northwest region. After dropping his first set, 6-2, Cohen charged back for a 6-3 victory in the second. But Egger was able to outlast Cohen in the matchbreaker, 10-4.