Eagles Embark on Pivotal Road Trip

March 23, 2009

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The Eastern Washington University men’s tennis team will play a trio of pivotal road contests this weekend, first playing a pair of Big Sky Conference matches before facing a nationally-ranked opponent.

The Eagles will first face Weber State at 11 a.m. Pacific Time on Wednesday (March 25) before playing Idaho State at 8 a.m. on Thursday (March 26).

Eastern will then take on No. 66 BYU at 5 p.m. on Thursday.

The Eagles have won three straight matches and 5-of-6 overall. The team is tied for third place in the Big Sky standings with a 3-1 mark.

Eastern Washington is also 10-6 overall and has now won at least 10 contests for four straight years after going 14 consecutive seasons without doing so.

Weber State is one of two undefeated Big Sky teams with a 2-0 league mark, 6-6 overall. The Wildcats will host Utah State on Tuesday (March 24) prior to facing Eastern the next day.

Idaho State has had a rough season so far, as ISU currently carries a 0-9 record, 0-3 in Big Sky contests. The Bengals will head to Las Vegas to face UNLV on Tuesday prior to returning home for its contest with the Eagles.

BYU is 9-8 versus a top schedule and will play host to Loyola Marymount on Thursday morning prior to Eastern’s visit that evening.

Doubles Team Ranked Nationally  
For what is believed to be the first time in school history, an Eastern Washington doubles team is nationally ranked at the NCAA Division I level.

EWU’s No. 1 duo of Nico Riego de Dios and Kyle Schraeder entered the national listings last week and is currently ranked 72nd.

The talented pair has recorded an outstanding 11-4 record this season with all of its matches coming at the No. 1 position. They have won 10 of their last 12 contests.

Their most impressive victory came on Feb. 20, when Riego de Dios and Schraeder outlasted Sacramento State’s 59th-ranked duo of Anton Stryhas and Kiryl Harbatsiuk in dramatic fashion, 9-8 (15-13).

In the back-and-forth tiebreaker, the Hornet pair broke serve twice to turn a 12-11 Eastern lead into a 13-12 Sacramento State advantage. However, the Eagles then returned the favor and broke serve twice themselves to go up 14-13 before securing the winning point on the next rally.

First to 50!                                      
In Eastern Washington’s 7-0 defeat of Linfield in Lincoln City, Ore., on Feb. 28, Art Karas become the first Eagle to ever record 50 career victories. His 50th came by 6-2, 6-2 scores on court three. He has now tallied 53 wins.

Riego de Dios Named POW                          
Nico Riego de Dios was named the Big Sky Conference Player of the Week on March 10 after helping the Eagles to a dominating 7-0 conference win over Montana State. He also played well in a 4-3 non-conference loss to Idaho.

Against the Bobcats, he teamed with Kyle Schraeder for an 8-4 victory at No. 1 doubles in the first match to complete that day to help propel EWU to its convincing win.

In singles, Riego de Dios won at No. 1 in straight sets, 7-5, 6-1, to complete his day.

Against the Vandals the next day, he and Schraeder helped the Eagles to a sweep of the doubles matches with an 8-6 victory on court one.

The junior then played Idaho’s top player to the wire before falling in a tight three-set affair, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.

The award is the second of his career, as Riego de Dios previously earned Big Sky weekly accolades on April 8, 2008.

Impressive Turnaround                                  
Before completely turning around its program with the 2006 squad, Eastern Washington had recorded at least 19 consecutive losing seasons (results from the 1987 campaign are incomplete).

To compare and contrast, consider that the Eagles have gone 52-33 since the beginning of the 2006 season (18-7 in Big Sky Conference play) after finishing 6-52, 1-25 in league contests, the four years immediately prior (2002-05).

A Look at This Year’s Team              
Eastern returns six of its eight starters from a 2008 squad that won its first-ever Big Sky Conference championship. Six newcomers join the 2009 team.

The six returnees include four who earned All-Big Sky honors a year ago (Pannhara Mam, Nico Riego de Dios and Kyle Schraeder were each named to the first team, while Art Karas earned honorable mention accolades).

Also, seniors Karas, Mam and Schraeder take up the top three spots on the career singles wins listing in the Eastern record book. Karas has 53 victories, Schraeder has 46, while Mam has recorded 43.

Senior Daniel Pez is tied for fifth with 32, while Riego de Dios, a junior, is currently in seventh with 28.

Also, Riego de Dios and Schraeder have teamed up for 12 doubles wins this year, placing the duo in a fourth-place tie in single-season victories and tied for fifth for a career.

Top-Notch Schedule in 2009 
The Eagles are taking on top-notch competition this year, as the team has four nationally-ranked foes on its slate.

First up were 34th-ranked Washington on Jan. 10, No. 66 Utah on Jan. 16 and 47th-ranked Denver on Jan. 23, who the Eagles fell to by 7-0, 6-1 and 7-0 scores, respectively.

The other nationally-ranked foe for Eastern this year is No. 66 BYU, who Eastern Washington will face in Provo, Utah, on March 26.

Each of these four contests takes place on the road.

Also, Kyle Schraeder fell to Denver’s No. 84-ranked player, David Simson, 6-2, 6-2. Nico Riego de Dios fell in his match with No. 108 Kiryl Harbatsiuk of Sacramento State, 6-4, 6-4.

No. 72 Schraeder and Riego de Dios teamed up for an exciting 9-8 (15-13) win over No. 59 Anton Stryhas and Harbatsiuk on Feb. 20.

On Feb. 28, the two fell to 35th-ranked Evan Schleining and Filip Zivkovic from Portland, 8-2.

Where’s the Match?                                               
Until the weather warms up, home tennis matches will take place at the Jim Thorpe Fieldhouse, located directly to the south of Reese Court, the home of the EWU basketball and volleyball teams. It is on the bottom floor of that facility, right behind the racquetball courts.

Until the time, or in the event of inclement weather during any home contest, the matches will take place outside at the Sports and Recreation tennis courts, located directly to the northwest of the varsity soccer field and next to the Jim Thorpe Fieldhouse.

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