Eastern has won four conference matches in a row, but faces a tall task as it aims for first-ever regular-season victory against Hornets
After playing four matches in six days during spring break, the Eastern Washington University men’s tennis team has only one matchup to focus on this week, but the opponent is a formidable one.
Eastern will host the Hornets of Sacramento State this Saturday (April 6) at 3 p.m. If the weather in Cheney is above 50 degrees and dry on Saturday, the teams will play at the outdoor tennis courts on the EWU campus. Otherwise, the match will take place indoors at Whitworth University in north Spokane.
The Eagles will be looking for their first-ever regular-season win against Sac State - a team that has won 10 Big Sky regular-season titles and 10 tournament crowns since joining the conference in 1996.
Eastern has defeated Sac State once in school history during postseason play. It came in the championship match of the 2008 Big Sky Conference tournament, when EWU upset the Hornets, 4-3, on their home courts to claim the school’s first-ever Big Sky tournament title.
Sac State has won four in a row since then.
“Sac State is a tough team; they have always been really tough,” said EWU head coach Darren Haworth. “But I think any team in our conference is beatable on any given day, especially at home.”
Eastern has won its last four Big Sky matches, and six of its last seven overall. The Eagles recently topped Northern Colorado, North Dakota at home and Southern Utah and Northern Arizona on the road.
“Our team has come out really strong and focused in our last few conference matches,” said Haworth. “I think if we continue to compete at the level we did especially against Northern Arizona, we should have a pretty competitive match on Saturday.”
EWU owns an 8-10 record on the year, while currently ranking fifth in the league standings at 4-3.
The top six teams at the end of the regular-season will advance to the 2013 Big Sky tourney, held April 26-28 at the Gold River Racquet Club in Sacramento, Calif.
With seven Big Sky wins already this year, Sac State is the only team to have already clinched a bid to the postseason event. The Hornets are 12-10 overall, and 7-1 in league play. Their only loss in conference came against the 6-0 Idaho State Bengals, who also took down Eastern earlier this year by a score of 7-0.
The match this Saturday comes in the midst of a very busy week for Sac State. The Hornets play at Portland on Thursday, then at Portland State Friday before heading east to play the Eags on Saturday and future-Big Sky member Idaho on Sunday.
Men's Tennis Notes
- Prior to a 5-0 loss last Sunday (March 31) against non-conference foe New Mexico State, EWU had won six matches in a row - tying its longest winning streak since the 2009 season.
- Sophomore Joseph Cohen has already earned Big Sky Player of the Week honors twice this year. The most recent award came after EWU’s pair of home matches against Montana State and Northern Colorado, in which Cohen went 2-0 at No. 1 singles. He cruised past MSU’s Niklas Brandes, 6-3, 6-1, and then led EWU to its first conference win of the year against UNC, when he downed Brando Lupo in straight sets, 6-4, 6-2. Cohen was also named POW on Jan. 29 after another 2-0 weekend at No. 1 singles, which included a big win against nationally-ranked Oregon.
- EWU has been particularly strong this year at the top of its lineup. Led by sophomore Joseph Cohen, the Eagles are 12-5 in dual matches at No. 1 singles. Cohen has earned 10 of those wins, while fellow sophomore Eduardo Martinez has picked up the other two. When playing No. 2 singles, Martinez is 7-4 on the year. As doubles partners, Cohen and Martinez have teamed up for a 7-7 record this year in the top spot. Eastern has also been quite strong at No. 3 doubles, with a 10-6 record to date.
- Eastern has five freshmen and four sophomores on its 2013 roster. EWU entered the 2013 season with just one returning letterwinner in Kyle Koetje, who also happens to be the only upperclassman on the roster.