March 6, 2007
The Eastern Washington Eagles will play a pair of matches this week at the Jim Thorpe Fieldhouse before embarking on an eight-match road trip before returning home on April 10.
Eastern will continue Big Sky Conference play on Saturday (March 10), as the Montana Grizzlies come to town for a 9 a.m. contest. The next day, Lewis-Clark State takes on the Eagles, also at 9 a.m.
The Eagles are coming off a historic 5-2 win over Montana State on Feb. 24 (details below) and enter the week 2-1 in Big Sky play in a virtual five-way tie for first (up-to-date standings can be found on page 2 of the complete notes package available above). Overall, Eastern has won 4-of-5 contests.
Looking at Montana
Montana will head to Cheney on a two-match losing streak after falling to Air Force and Denver last weekend by identical 5-2 scores. The Grizzlies (4-3, 1-0 Big Sky Conference) won three straight contests prior to that, including a 7-0 road defeat of Northern Colorado in its first conference match of the campaign.
Montana also toppled arch-rival Montana State, 5-2, in a non-conference match and defeated EWU's Sunday opponent, Lewis-Clark State, 7-0. UM's season began with a 4-3 win over UC Davis and a 4-3 loss to Gonzaga.
Looking at Lewis-Clark State
Lewis-Clark State will arrive in Cheney with a 7-3 mark and are currently ranked 16th nationally in the NAIA ranks (a new set of rankings will be released on Wednesday and will be available at www.naia.org).
The Warriors are 0-3 against NCAA Division I competition and 7-0 against the rest of their schedule, winning all seven of those contests by identical 9-0 scores. The Division I losses came to Idaho (4-3 on Sunday), Montana State (4-3) and Montana (7-0). The NAIA teams play a nine-point system in which the three doubles matches are worth one team point each for a total of three, as opposed to NCAA tennis, where the doubles matches are counted as one entitiy and the winner of at least 2-of-3 claims the doubles point.
The Eagles won a match on Feb. 24 which reverberated across the Big Sky Conference and Northwest tennis world, as Eastern Washington was able to topple three-time defending Big Sky champion Montana State, 5-2. The win ended a 27-match winless streak against the Bobcats dating to an 8-1 win in 1979. In fact, the five team points scored in that lone contest matched the total earned by Eastern in its last 20 meetings combined with Montana State (EWU was outscored, 129-5, in those contests).
The Eagles set the tone with convincing 8-2 wins in the first two doubles matches to finish play and were able to sweep all three doubles contests. The victory was secured when Patrick Millican secured Eastern's fourth team point with a straight-sets 6-3, 7-5 win over Igor Vuckovic on the fifth court.
Turning a Program Around
The Eagles are in the midst of a dramatic turnaround of its program. The Eagles went 10-8 last year to record its first winning mark since the 1985 squad went 13-10. In fact, EWU has won more matches in the 2006 and 2007 seasons (14-11) than it accumulated in the previous five years combined (10-60). To put it further into perspective, the Eagles have won four matches in an entire season just three times in the past 10 campaigns, including last season.
Big Sky POW Honors for Schraeder
Kyle Schraeder had a big hand in Eastern Washington's historic 5-2 win over Montana State on Feb. 24, as he dominated opponents in both singles and doubles matches.
Teaming with Pannhara Mam in No. 1 doubles, the pair defeated Montana State's top team in resounding fashion, 8-2, in the first doubles contest to finish play. The win is the pair's fifth in a row. He then kept that momentum going, as he was the first player to leave the court in singles play after he finished off a convincing 6-1, 6-3 win over Zachery Buenger at No. 2. That gave Eastern a commanding 2-0 lead on its way to the win.
Mam earned Big Sky POW honors last year, while the last Eagle to do so prior to him was Aaron Heier in 2002.
The Home Opener
The Eagles won its home-opening contest on Feb. 3 by a 5-2 score over the UC Davis Aggies.
Wins in the first two doubles contests to complete play earned EWU the doubles point. The Eagles then proceeded to claim three of the first four singles contests to finish to earn their fourth team point and seal the win.
Pannhara Mam had convincing wins in both singles and doubles play (teaming up with Kyle Schraeder), earning a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Henri Landes in singles and an 8-2 win against Daniel Elefant and Jayce Fitch in doubles. Patrick Millican won at No. 4 singles and at No. 3 doubles (with Jonathan Davis).
The clinching point was earned by Daniel Pez, who claimed a 7-6 (7-5), 7-5 victory against Justin Garcia in the third position.
Eastern's Successful Trip to Colorado
The Eagles opened up Big Sky play on Jan. 27 by defeating Northern Colorado, 7-0, in Greeley.
Eastern Washington was able to claim every singles match in straight sets. The Eagles began the match by winning 2-of-3 doubles contests to earn the doubles point and gain momentum heading into singles play.
Top-Notch Schedule for Eagles in 2007
The Eagles are coming off an impressive 2006 season (10-8) and are taking on top-notch competition this year. Eastern has seven matches scheduled versus top-75 competition, including a pair against top-20 squads.
The Eagles will open and close its regular-season slate with a pair of nationally-ranked opponents. The season began with 6-1 and 4-0 losses to then-18th-ranked Washington and No. 62 Denver, respectively. The Eagles close its regular season with matches against No. 75 UC Irvine and 27th-ranked Boise State on April 20 and 21, respectively. Both contests will be played in Idaho's capital city.
In between, the Eagles face Portland, who is tied for the 75th slot.
There are two ranked singles players on Eastern's schedule (based on ITA rankings released on March 6). Eastern's No. 1 singles player, Pannhara Mam, has already played No. 19 Adam Holmstrom of Denver.
Upcoming for an Eastern singles player will be No. 14 Luke Shields of Boise State.
Newcomers to the Eagle Tennis Family
There are some new staff additions to the Eagle tennis programs. Darren Haworth and Jan Steenekamp will now serve as assistant coaches, while Jeff Kawaguchi is now the strength and conditioning coach.
Haworth has experience with Dreves, as he played for the Eagle head coach at Linfield and helped lead the Wildcats to their first-ever appearance in the NCAA Division III Tournament. He would serve as an assistant coach at his alma mater from 2002-03 and, for the past year, served as men's and women's head coach at Fresno City College.
Steenekamp is a former No. 1 singles player for Montana who earned first team All-Big Sky honors three times.
"He is one of the top players maybe ever in the Big Sky," head coach Patrick Dreves said.
Kawaguchi currently acts as an assistant athletic trainer within the EWU athletics department and works directly with the women's basketball team. He serves as an assistant professor in the Athletic Training Education Program at EWU, as well.
"Because he is a physical therapist, he understands both sides of it, not pushing kids too hard, but also understanding if they have nagging injuries," Dreves said.