SEASON OUTLOOK: Eagles Have Several New Faces in 2010

Note: The Eastern Washington University women’s tennis team opens up the 2009-10 dual-match season this Friday and Saturday with two home matches against Lewis-Clark State (Jan. 15) and Whitworth (Jan. 16). After this week’s matches, the Eagles will hit the road for four matches before returning home to play Idaho on Feb. 5.

Upcoming Schedule

Date - Opponent - Time/Pacific
Jan. 15 – Lewis-Clark State College at EWU’s Thorpe Fieldhouse – 5 p.m.
Jan. 16 – Whitworth University at EWU’s Thorpe Fieldhouse - 12 p.m. 

With just three returning letter winners, Eastern will have to gain experience fast in the 2009-10 season

By Keenan Bowen, EWU Sports Information

After compiling more wins the past three seasons than in the previous eight combined, the Eastern Washington University women's tennis team is looking to continue its improvement in the 2009-10 season. But the Eagles will have to do so with just three returning letter winners from the 2008-09 season and a total of six freshmen.

"We have a very young team this year but have a lot of heart," said associate head women's coach Dale Silha. "I love the spirit and competitiveness of the players this year and am looking forward to our first match. The team put in a lot of hard work in the fall, and it is beginning to pay off as we enter the dual-match part of our season."

The Eagles began the fall portion of their schedule with the Cougar Classic in Pullman, Wash., which was played from Sept. 18-20. Both Marie Demerath and Ryann Warner made it to the second round in their respective brackets.

Next up for the Eagles was the EWU/GU Classic (Sept. 25-27), where the doubles tandem of Judy Liening and Warner made the longest tournament run of the five brackets (three singles, two doubles) with two victories. Caitlin Bampton and Kelsey Knight made it to the Flight A quarterfinals with a victory, and in singles action freshmen Chelsea Patton and Alix Silha both picked up wins.

The Eagles also competed well in the ITA Regionals from Oct. 23-25. Demerath, Patton and Bampton all picked up singles wins along with the doubles tandem of Demerath and Knight.

"Throughout the fall the women played better with each match," said Silha. "There were some great individual wins over schools like Washington State, Portland, California, and UC Davis."

"The fall season ended with some fierce competition at the ITA Regionals at Stanford -- each of the girls really stepped up their play and competed well. The team also did well academically with a combined team GPA of 3.70 this past fall."

Similar to last season, the Eagles will face a couple of ranked teams during the 2009-10 slate. Eastern will match-up with No. 71 Oregon on Jan. 24 as well as always tough Big Sky rival and 58th-ranked Sacramento State.

"Our main goal for this year is to make it to the conference championships," said Silha. "Also, we want to win the doubles point in most of our matches and have amazing team spirit all season long."

The top returnee for the Eagles is Demerath, a senior from Kenmore, Wash. Demerath enters this season seventh on the career singles win list with 27. Demerath had a rough season last year as the team's No. 1 singles player, finishing the year 1-14 at that ladder position and 3-17 overall. Demerath had 24 wins in her first two seasons at Eastern.

"I expect great things from Marie this year," said Silha. "After spending most of the year with a shoulder injury, she is healthy once again. As our team captain, Marie has really helped bring this team together."

Liening, a junior from Federal Way, Wash., had a team-high 10 singles wins last season. Liening also teamed up with then senior Rachel Berger for eight doubles victories.

"Judy is a really warm and genuine person," said Silha. "She works hard on the court and never complains. Judy is a great inspiration to her teammates and we are excited about what she can do this season."

Bampton had a very successful freshman campaign in 2008-09 as the sophomore from Kennewick, Wash., posted eight singles victories. She also teamed-up with senior Kasie King for nine doubles victories.

"Coming off a strong freshman year, Caitlin is poised to achieve strong results again this year," said Silha.

Knight, a redshirt freshman from Folsom, Calif., was off to a 2-1 singles start last season before a knee injury ended her season.

"Kelsey is hungry to compete after sitting out as a redshirt most of the 2008-09 year with a torn ACL," said Silha. "Kelsey is a fierce competitor that can be intimidating to opponents with her intense drive to win."

Patton is a true freshman from Boise, Idaho, and is the daughter of current Boise State men's tennis head coach Greg Patton. Her father has also coached for the U.S. National Team.

"As a freshman, Chelsea played in the top tier of two of our fall tournaments and had some great wins," said Silha. "Her aggressive style and competitiveness will enable her to be very successful this season."

Also impressive this fall as a true freshman was Warner, who is from Colorado Springs, Colo.

"Ryann had great results this fall and a winning record in tournament play," said Silha. "She is a patient player that makes very few mistakes and is willing to do whatever it takes to win a match."

Marta Tosic enters her last collegiate season in 2009-10. Tosic, a senior from Kraljevo, Serbia, didn't see any action last season as a junior.

"Marta has continued to work hard and improve her game from last year," said Silha.

Rocio Norena joins the Eagle program by way of Madrid, Spain.

"A freshman this year, she is continuing to improve through the fall season," said Silha. "Though small in size, Rocio can generate tremendous power in her shots through great body position and timing."

The Eagles also added a couple of Spokane high school products to the team this year -- Alix Silha from Lewis & Clark High School and Jessi Steele from University High School. Silha is the daughter of associate head women's coach Dale Silha and Steele is the sister of former Eastern men's tennis player Josh Steele.

"Alix switched from soccer to tennis her senior year in high school, so she is still fairly new to the game," said Silha. "Alix has been working hard this fall and has become a force at the net in doubles."

"Jessi has a seemingly endless amount of energy," said Silha. "If you want to beat Jessi in a match you will need to be prepared to stay on the court for a while."


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