Eagles Geared Up for Conference Debut

Eastern heads out for three-match road swing at Idaho State, Weber State and Utah State


After nearly two weeks off from competition, the Eastern Washington University women's tennis team will dive back in this weekend with three matches in three days. The Eagles open their 2011 Big Sky Conference season on Saturday (Feb. 19) at Idaho State. EWU will then take on Weber State on Sunday (Feb. 20) in Ogden, and then finish up the road trip with a non-conference match at Utah State on Monday (Feb. 21).

"We feel confident heading into this weekend, and are excited to get Big Sky play underway," said EWU associate head coach Dale Silha. "We are mentally fresh from having a couple weeks off, and for the first time this season, we feel we are in a position to get out and play at our full ability. We have had to work on recovering from a number of different injuries over the last few months, but almost everyone is healed and at 100 percent.  We are moving better on the court and playing with more confidence."

Eastern owns a 4-4 record heading into the first week of league competition. The Eagles opened their 2011 campaign with three-consecutive wins before falling to a few tough opponents from around the region, including Gonzaga, Idaho and Washington State.

Having played eight matches already this year, the Eagles definitely have more competitive experience than its upcoming Big Sky opponents, which coach Silha and the players see as an important advantage.

"Tennis is such a mental sport, and to build that toughness and tenacity just takes a lot of time and a lot of match play," said Silha. "It is great to have many opportunities to learn and re-learn how to compete and battle through matches. It's an interesting dynamic, going against a single opponent for what could be up to three hours. We were able to get that experience early in the season, and we feel our match toughness and mental toughness is right where it needs to be."

Heading into the weekend, EWU has played four times the matches of Idaho State and Weber State, who are both 0-2 in the 2011 campaign. Idaho State was picked eighth in the BSC preseason poll, while Weber State finished just one spot behind Eastern at sixth in the rankings.

Last year, EWU swept the Bengals 7-0 in Cheney. In fact, Eastern dropped only one set to ISU in all nine matches.

The outing against the Wildcats was much closer, but Eastern prevailed with 4-3 decision. The Eagles won the doubles point against WSU with victories and No. 1 and No. 2. The Wildcats were able to earn three points after winning at No. 4, 5 and 6 singles, but Eastern's perseverance at No. 1, 2 and 3 led to an exciting victory for the home team. Current Eagle Caitlin Bampton and 2010 graduate Marie Demerath outlasted their opponents in three-set battles to help clinch the match for EWU.

Following the Big Sky action this weekend, Eastern will play a non-conference opponent in Utah State. The Aggies own a 3-1 record thus far in the 2011 season, which includes victories against two other Big Sky schools in Idaho State and Portland State.

The Aggies defeated ISU, 7-0 and topped PSU, 6-1 earlier this year.

Eagle Tennis News & Notes

Eagles Excel in Three-Set Affairs: So far in the 2011 season, Eastern Washington has gone 5-3 when playing in three-set matches. Against Portland on Feb. 4, Eastern won both three setters played in the match. Junior Caitlin Bampton defeated Alice Tucker at No. 3 singles, 7-6 (7-5), 1-6, 6-3. Sophomore Chelsea Patton, who was playing at No. 4, dropped her first set to Stephanie Fuchs, but then rallied back to win the second and third sets, 6-3, 6-2. Senior Judy Liening is undefeated in three-set matches this year, and both of her wins came after falling in the first set. She beat Gonzaga's Britta Stime, 4-6, 6-4, 1-0 (10-7) and Lewis-Clark State's Clara Schultz, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4).

Eagles Go 3-0 in Opening Weekend: Eastern Washington opened its 2011 campaign with three wins in two days. The Eagles swept Whitworth and Whitman, and dropped only one point in its 6-1 defeat of cross-state rival Seattle. Eastern clinched the doubles point against the Redhawks after two incredible comebacks at No. 1 and No. 2. At No. 2 doubles, Chelsea Patton and Helon Ricks found themselves down 7-4 to Seattle's Weissman and Lucas. The Eagle duo then rallied to win five of the next six games, including a tiebreaker at 8-8, to eventually win the match, 9-8. The No. 1 doubles pair of Caitlin Bampton and Kelsey Knight also overcame some early adversity, as they trailed Seattle 4-2 to start the match. EWU was able to eventually gut out the win with a 9-7 decision.

Injury Report: They say lightning doesn't strike the same place twice, but redshirt-sophomore Kelsey Knight would have to disagree. Knight recently suffered a torn ACL in her left knee. The injury occurred while playing Gonzaga at the Spokane Raqceut Club on Jan. 26. Two years ago, Knight tore the ACL in her right knee while playing in the exact same facility on the exact same court. Knight is projected to have surgery in March, but will be out for the rest of the 2011 season.

Eagles in Middle of Pack According to BSC Preseason Poll: The Eagle women were selected fifth in the 2011 Big Sky Preseason coaches poll. EWU garnered 36 points in the poll to finish behind unanimous favorite Sacramento State (64), second-place Northern Arizona (55) and Montana (52) and Montana State (38). Eastern's preseason ranking seemed quite fitting, considering the Eagles have finished fifth in the conference in each of the last two seasons. EWU earned a 4-4 league record in both 2009 and 2010. With the BSC tournament field being reduced from six to four in the 2010 season, Eastern just missed the cut for postseason competition.

^Knight and Warner Return after Impressive 2010 Campaign: Junior Kelsey Knight and sophomore Ryann Warner were the only two Eagles to record a winning record in singles play during the 2010 season. Knight went 11-10 on the season, playing primarily at No. 2 singles, while Warner earned an overall record of 11-9, with a majority of those wins coming at the No. 6 spot. Knight and Warner's 11 wins in the 2010 season were enough to crack the top ten list of the EWU record book. Knight and Warner are currently tied for ninth on Eastern's all-time single-season wins list with those 11 victories. The school record is held by Kasey Knox, who garnered 14 wins in 2007.

^Eastern's Upperclassmen Appear in Career Record Book: Of Eastern's eight returning players, only two are of junior or senior status, and both of those upperclassmen have made their way into the EWU record book for career singles wins. Senior Judy Liening is eighth on the list with 23 total wins in her career. Junior Caitlin Bampton is tied for ninth with 21 singles victories.

Two New Faces for 2011: In addition to his eight returners, associate head coach Dale Silha added two new players to the 2011 roster. Nefeli Diamanti, a native of Athens, Greece, transferred to Eastern after spending two years with the Cal St. Bakersfield Roadrunners. While at CSUB, Diamanti compiled an overall singles record of 7-28, while going 5-28 in doubles play. Before coming to the United States, Diamanti ranked as high as No. 3 among U18 players in Greece. Ricks is a product of Lakeside High School in Hot Springs, Ark. She won the girls singles title at the 2006 Arkansas 5A State Championship, and was a finalist in 2007 and 2008. She played at No. 1 singles as a freshman, sophomore and junior, tallying a 51-2 overall record during those years. She also played on the USTA junior competitive circuit, where she ranked as high as 49th in southern section in both singles and doubles play.

Eagles Sign Two High School Standouts to National Letters of Intent: Moira Hedberg of Oxnard, Calif., and Chrissy Uriarte of Las Vegas, Nev., will join the Eagle women's tennis program as freshmen in the fall of 2011.According to tennisrecuriting.net, Hedberg is tabbed as a four-star recruit and is among the top 40 players in the Southwest region. She achieved her highest junior ranking of 144 in 2010 after tallying a 22-29 overall record in national tournaments. She has recorded two wins over five-star recruits and six wins against other four-star athletes. Throughout her preparatory career, Hedberg earned an incredible 186-10 overall record in singles play. She has captured the Pacific View League singles title for four-consecutive years, and was named the PVL Player of the Year in 2008, 2009 and 2010. She is also a four-time Ventura County Star first-team selection and is a member of the National Honor Society. In addition to Hedberg, the Eagles welcome another player who has been mentioned among the nation's best juniors. Uriarte has been ranked in the top 100 on tennisrecruiting.net for the past four years, and in 2007 and 2008, she was ranked in the top 50. She achieved her highest juniors ranking of 44 in 2007 after garnering multiple wins at some of the most competitive tournaments in the country, including the Copper Bowl, the Easter Bowl Spring National, the Junior Orange Bowl International Championships and the USTA National Open Championships. Uriarte is a native of Las Vegas, Nev., and competed one season at Coronado High School before transferring to the Advantage Tennis Academy in Irvine, Calif., for her sophomore year. Uriarte saw early success at the ATA, including a sixth-place finish in the 18 and younger division at the 2008 Snowball Intermountain Sectional Tournament. Unfortunately, the rest of her season was hampered after she came down with an illness. Uriarte returned to Nevada and began competing again for Coronado during her senior year. She finished third overall at the 2010 Class 4A State Championships.

^ Listings for both single-season and career records are since 1991 for women, as records are incomplete prior to those respective seasons. All other records and honors are from the 1984 season when Eastern Washington first became a member of NCAA Division I athletics (see complete record book in the EWU links on the right-hand side of the women's tennis page)

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