February 2, 2009

Pair of Big Matches on Tap for Eagles

Feb. 2, 2009

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The Eastern Washington University women’s tennis team has a pair of pivotal matches this week, taking the short trip to Spokane, Wash., to face Gonzaga before playing host to No. 42 Sacramento State.

The GU contest is the first of the annual home-and-home series between the rivals. It will take place at the Spokane Racquet Club and begins at 6 p.m. on Tuesday (Feb. 3).

Then, the seven-time defending Big Sky Conference champion Hornets will head to Cheney to open the league schedule for both schools. The visitors have won 52 straight matches over Big Sky schools. That match begins at 11 a.m. on Sunday (Feb. 8).

Eastern Washington is 2-1 and riding a two-match winning streak, most recently completing an impressive road victory, 5-2, over Seattle University on Friday (Jan. 30).

The 2-1 start is the team’s best since the 2006 campaign.

Last year, Gonzaga and Eastern Washington each won on its opponent’s home court. EWU prevailed 5-2 in Spokane on Feb. 20, before the Bulldogs defeated Eastern 7-0 in Cheney on April 10.

Gonzaga, who went 10-14 a year ago, will open its 2009 campaign with that match on Tuesday.

Sacramento State, who went 21-7 in 2008, started its 2009 season with a dominating 7-0 road win over 29th-ranked Pepperdine. The Hornets will play at No. 54 Washington State on Saturday (Feb. 7) prior to making the trip north to Cheney.

The Hornets will bring to the EWU campus a nationally-ranked singles player in No. 58 Katrina Zheltova, as well as a top doubles tandem in 54th-ranked Aileen Tsan and Gayane Sarkisian.

Impressive Turnaround for Eagles                      
Eastern Washington is in the midst of an impressive turnaround, having won 27 matches since the beginning of the 2006 season.

By comparison, the 2001-05 teams combined for just eight victories.

In Big Sky Conference contests, Eastern has gone 8-7 the last two years after going 6-43 from 2000-06.

Also, the Eagles claimed their first postseason victory, 4-0 over Montana in the 2008 Big Sky quarterfinals, since 1994. The victory snapped a 29-match postseason losing streak for the Eagles.

The 10 wins earned by the 2008 squad were the most by an Eagle team since the 1993 team went 10-8. That 1993 season also marks the last time Eastern has posted a winning record, something this year’s squad has set as a goal.

Eastern returns three of its six letterwinners from a year ago and welcomes five newcomers to the 2009 squad. The returning letterwinners include Rachel Berger, Marie Demerath and Amanda Mankovits.

Berger currently has 34 career victories, the third-highest total in Eastern history. Mankovits is in sixth place on the EWU career wins chart with 27, while Demerath is just behind with 26 victories.

Top-Notch Schedule for Eagles                       
The Eagles take on top competition in 2009, as a pair of nationally-ranked teams is on the slate. These include No. 42 Sacramento State and 54th-ranked Washington State.

The Eagles play host to the Hornets in both teams’ initial Big Sky Conference match of 2009 on Sunday (Feb. 8), while Eastern will pay a visit to the Palouse and WSU on April 9.

Also, Eagle players are scheduled to take on three singles opponents ranked nationally, as well as one nationally-ranked doubles team.

The singles players include No. 58 Katrina Zheltova of Sacramento State, 119th-ranked Cougar Ekaterina Kamendova and No. 124 Elisabeth Fournier, also of Washington State.

Aileen Tsan and Gayane Sarkisian of Sacramento State comprise the 54th-ranked doubles team.

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.

Once spring arrives, home contests 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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