Short-handed Eagles look to capitalize on home-court advantage this weekend against the 6-1 Grizzlies and 1-6 Viks
The Eastern Washington University men’s tennis team wraps up its 2013 regular-season slate this weekend with two important Big Sky duals. The Eagles host Montana on Friday (April 12) at 12 p.m., before taking on Portland State Saturday (April 13) at 2 p.m. Both matches will be played on the EWU campus in Cheney, Wash.
Eastern comes into these final two matches with a 4-4 league record, and 8-11 overall. The Eags are currently tied for fifth place in the Big Sky standings with Northern Colorado, but EWU does have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Bears by virtue of its 5-2 victory earlier this month.
The top six teams at the end of the regular season will earn a bid to the 2013 Big Sky Conference Tennis Championships, held April 26-28 at the Gold River Racquet Club in Sacramento, Calif.
Four teams - Idaho State, (6-0), Sacramento State (9-1), Montana State (7-1) and Montana (6-1) - have already punched their tickets. There are five teams though, including Eastern, that are still realistically in the running for the two final spots.
Portland State is also one of them, but with a 1-6 league record coming in the final two weeks, the Vikings would have to win-out, and Eastern is determined to make sure that doesn't happen. In the last five years under head coach Darren Haworth, the Eagles are 4-1 against the Viks, which includes back-to-back 7-0 sweeps in 2011 and 2012.
Against Montana, EWU is 3-2 under Haworth, but Eastern did lose the most recent matchup in 2012 by a score of 6-1. The Grizzlies, like Eastern, will come into Friday’s contest having won six of their last eight matches. The two losses for both teams came against the same teams in New Mexico State and Sac State.
“We really want to win both matches this weekend. We know Montana is a really good team, but we definitely think we have a shot,” said EWU head coach Darren Haworth. “We get to play both at home, so I like our chances with that little home-court advantage.”
Eastern will unfortunately be without one of its top players though in sophomore Eduardo Martinez. The Mexico City, Mexico, native suffered a season-ending knee injury last Saturday (April 6) in the match against Sacramento State. An integral part of the EWU lineup, Martinez had played 15 of 17 matches this year alongside Joseph Cohen at No. 1 doubles and was Eastern’s steady No. 2 in singles. Martinez had earned a singles record of 9-6 before the injury.
“Obviously it’s a big loss to the team,” said Haworth. “Eduardo was one of our best doubles players, so it impacts us a little bit there. But this will give a couple guys the opportunity to prove themselves at new positions. I think in the big picture, it’s good for other players to get this kind of experience playing higher in the lineup. That will help our team in the future.”
Despite the absence of Martinez, the Eagles are still optimistic behind the undefeated Big Sky record of Cohen, and the solid play of senior Kyle Koetje and freshmen Tomas Aranguiz, Eduardo Bringold and Stefan Farrar.
Coming off his ninth-consecutive singles victory, Cohen is playing his best tennis of the year right now. He is 11-3 overall this season at No. 1 singles, which includes a perfect 7-0 record in Big Sky matches. Each of his last nine-straight wins have been in straight sets, with only one tiebreaker.
“Joseph is playing at a really high level right now,” said Haworth. “This weekend will be a great matchup to see him go up against two other players who have also had great seasons. He is just playing with a lot of confidence right now, and I am really looking forward to seeing compete this weekend.”
More Men's Tennis Notes
- EWU lost its two most recent matches to New Mexico State and Sacramento State, but just prior to that, the team 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 singles lineup and bottom of doubles. Led by sophomore Joseph Cohen, the Eagles are 13-5 in dual matches at No. 1 singles. Cohen has earned 11 of those wins, while the recently-injured Eduardo Martinez picked up the other two. In doubles, EWU has earned a 10-6 record this year at the No. 3 spot. The most successful of the pairs to play No. 3 has been the combination of freshman Tomas Aranguiz and senior Kyle Koetje. After playing two matches together at No. 1 and six at No. 2, Aranguiz and Koetje moved to the No. 3 doubles spot, and have earned an impressive 7-2 record. The duo is 5-1 in league matches.
- 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.