January 24, 2007

Eagle Women's Tennis Heads to Colorado

Jan. 24, 2007

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Eagles Head to Colorado

The Eagles (0-1) will open Big Sky Conference play this weekend, taking on new member Northern Colorado in Greeley at 8 a.m. PT on Saturday (Jan. 27). The match will not only be UNC's first of the season, but its initial one in Big Sky history.

Last year, the Eagles took a 4-3 decision from the Bears in an April 14 meeting in Missoula, Mont.

"It is obviously a big weekend for us," head coach Patrick Dreves said. "We have seven matches which are cruicial for us this year (the seven BSC contests), and obviously one is Northern Colorado.

"We played them last year, and it's a program which is getting better every year, so it should be a tough match. At 4,700 feet, it makes it that much tougher for us."

That match will be sandwiched by contests against Air Force and Colorado State. The Eagles take on the Falcons at 4 p.m. on Friday and the CSU Rams at 8 a.m. on Sunday.

Althought the AFA (0-1) has already opened its schedule and will also play South Dakota State on Friday morning, both UNC and CSU will begin their 2007 schedules with the Eagles.

"Then we have Air Force, who is a very good team, and finish with Colorado State, which is another strong program," Dreves said.

The Eagles are coming off playing a high-quality opponent in No. 66 Washington State. In that contest, EWU's No. 2 doubles team of Kerstyn Dolack and Kasey Knox earned an 8-5 win over Ashley Spicer and Amy Toth in what was Eastern's first doubles win over WSU in Dreves' time at Eastern.

2007 Season Preview

Is it tennis season already?

In a word, yes. The Eastern women's tennis team gets its 2007 campaign going this weekend, taking on 66th-ranked Washington State in Pullman at noon on Saturday (Jan. 20).

Last season, EWU welcomed in a new era of Eagle tennis with the completion of the new tennis complex at the EWU Sports and Recreation Center.

On the courts, the Eagles are in the midst of an impressive turnaround of its program, as they went 7-13 last year after tallying that many wins in their last four seasons combined (7-59). The win total last year was the team's highest since the 1996 squad went 7-15.

They finished the season on a high note, falling narrowly to Northern Arizona in the Big Sky quarterfinals, 4-3, after taking a 3-1 lead. The Lumberjacks would advance to the championship match.

"It was a record-breaking year for us in just about every avenue," head coach Patrick Dreves said. "I think coming away from that (close loss to NAU), especially since we were up pretty big against them, our girls realize what they are capable of."

The future looks bright, as Eastern returns 92 percent of their singles wins from 2006 and are looking forward to a continuation of the improvement of the program.

"We have got some older players up top, and Kasey Knox is a great leader," Dreves said. "It is going to be key that we stay healthy. We can ill afford to have any injuries this year."

Two Eagles finished the year with All-Big Sky accolades, as Knox was named to the second team after receiving Honorable Mention her freshman campaign, while Rachel Berger earned mention on last year's Honorable Mention list.

Knox went 7-13, including 4-6 in the No. 1 position, in singles play. She went 9-11 in doubles play. Berger was 10-6 as a singles player with those results being split among the 2, 3 and 4 positions and 4-8 in doubles.

Kerstyn Dolack went 12-4 last year to record the most singles wins by an Eagle since 1995. She went 2-1 at 5 and 9-4 in the sixth slot.

"I think the dynamics are healthy," Dreves said. "It's certainly more competitive and our depth is better this year than it has ever been. We will certainly have players battling for positions, which is what you want. We want to put our players in a situation where they have to perform at their best and push every day if they want to be part of the program, one of the top six.

"Every year the goal is to win the conference title, and every year we are closing that gap. When I took over the program, that gap was humongous; now that gap is smaller."

Top-Notch Schedule for Eagles in 2007

The Eagles are coming off an impressive 2006 season and are ready to take on top-notch competition this year. Eastern has four top-75 squads on its schedule, beginning with the 66th-ranked Cougars. Washington State claimed a 7-0 win over Eastern on Saturday (Jan. 20).

The Eagles will play its home opener against a nationally-ranked opponent, as well, as 63rd-ranked Sacramento State pays a visit on Feb. 9. First serve for that Big Sky Conference match is set for 1 p.m.

"Washington State, along with Oregon (who EWU faces on March 16), are the top two programs in our area, and you want to expose your players to that level as early as possible," head coach Patrick Dreves said.

The fourth and final ranked foe on Eastern's schedule is No. 73 UC Santa Barbara, as the Eagles face UCSB in the final match of the regular season on April 13 in Pullman. The Gauchos will be in Pullman to play WSU the next day.

There is one ranked singles player and a pair of doubles teams on Eastern's schedule. Ekaterina Burduli of Washington State is ranked 85th, while Oregon's doubles duo of Dominika Dieskova and Anna Cecilia Olivos is ranked 28th and the tandem of Charlotte Scatliffe and Marta Simic of UC Santa Barbara resides in the 38th slot.

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, where Haworth 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, has 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 got nagging injuries," Dreves said.

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