March 2, 2009
The Eastern Washington University women's tennis team wraps up a pivotal stretch of four straight Big Sky Conference matches this weekend with road tilts versus Weber State and Idaho State.
The Eagles face the Wildcats at 11 a.m. Pacific Time on Friday (March 6) before playing the Bengals at 8 the following morning. Eastern then finishes up its busy weekend with a non-conference match versus Utah State at 9 a.m. on Sunday (March 8).
Eastern Washington (4-5) is coming off a 1-1 week that saw the team rally for an impressive, nearly six-hour, 4-3 win over Montana on Friday (Feb. 27) before falling to Montana State the following morning, 5-2.
The Eagles and Grizzlies are tied for fourth place in the Big Sky with .500 records (2-2 and 1-1, respectively). Montana State (2-0 BSC) is among a trio of undefeated teams, joining No. 35 Sacramento State (2-0 BSC) and Northern Colorado (3-0 BSC) among those ranks.
Eastern's first opponent of the weekend, Weber State, is 2-8, 0-1 in Big Sky matches. Idaho State is off to a 0-5 start and is also 0-1 in league contests.
Utah State is 1-7 and has gone 1-1 against Big Sky squads, beating Idaho State 6-1 and falling to Weber State 4-3.
Idaho State plays at Utah State before each welcomes the Eagles for home matches later in the week.
This week's contests will be the first of 10 straight away from home for the Eagles. The team will play five matches in five days (in three different states) from March 21-25 and will play twice in Pullman, Wash., on the April 9-10 weekend.
Eagles Pull Out Marathon Match
On Friday (Feb. 27), Eastern Washington rallied from a 3-2 deficit to defeat Montana in a Big Sky Conference match that finally came to an end at 10:56 p.m., 356 minutes after it had started.
The night's dramatics were put into motion when the doubles point came down to a 90-minute No. 3 match, which saw Caitlin Bampton and Kasie King pull out an exciting 9-8 (7-2) victory.
Then the Grizzlies won three of the first four singles matches to finish play to come within the brink of a victory with a 3-2 lead.
King and Judy Liening, however, had other ideas.
King finished off an impressive third set in a 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 victory to tie the team score 3-3. Then, with all eyes on her contest, Liening also prevailed impressively in her deciding stanza, finishing off a rally from a set down for a 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory.
The match continued a healthy rivalry between the teams, as Eastern had eliminated Montana from the postseason a year ago, 4-0 in the Big Sky quarterfinals (in the process, snapping a 29-match postseason losing streak), while the Grizzlies had rallied from a 3-2 deficit to defeat EWU in the quarterfinal round the year before.
Impressive Turnaround for Eagles
Eastern Washington is in the midst of an impressive turnaround, having won 29 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 10-9 the last two years after going 6-43 from 2000-06.
Also, in 2008 the Eagles claimed their first postseason victory since 1994, 4-0 over Montana in the Big Sky quarterfinals. That win 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 squad 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 37 career singles victories, tied for the second-highest total in Eastern history. She is just three behind the current record holder, Tina Dlouhy, who had 40 from 1993-96.
Mankovits has tallied 30 victories, good for sixth on that chart, while Demerath is just behind her with 27 wins.
In doubles play, Demerath and Mankovits have teamed up for 13 career wins, tied for the fifth-best total ever earned by an Eagle doubles team. The talented duo is just one victory away from tying for the second spot.
All records date back to 1991, as individual singles and doubles results are incomplete prior to that season.
The Eagles take on top competition in 2009, as a pair of nationally-ranked teams is on the slate. These include Sacramento State, currently 35th, and 58th-ranked Washington State.
The Eagles played host to the Hornets on Feb. 8 in both teams' initial Big Sky Conference match of 2009, falling to the visitors, 7-0. Eastern will pay a visit to the Palouse and WSU on April 9.
Also, Marie Demerath faced Sacramento State's 58th-ranked Katrina Zheltova on Feb. 8, falling by 6-1, 6-2 scores.
Where's the Match?
Weather permitting, home matches are played at the Sports and Recreation tennis courts, located directly to the northwest of the varsity soccer field.
If cold or precipitation precludes a contest from taking place outdoors, the indoor Jim Thorpe Fieldhouse will be utilized. That is located directly to the south of Reese Court, the home of Eastern's basketball and volleyball teams. It is on the bottom floor of that facility, right behind the racquetball courts.
Time change for Sunday's match with Idaho - first serve will now be at noon.
The Eastern Washington University men's tennis team returns home this weekend and will play Montana State in a Big Sky Conference match prior to hosting Idaho in a non-conference contest.
The Eagles face the Bobcats at 10 a.m. on Saturday (March 7), while the Vandals will visit the EWU campus for a 10 a.m. contest the next day.
Eastern Washington (6-5, 1-1 BSC) is coming off a 7-0 win over previously undefeated Linfield (6-1), which helped the Eagles move on from a pair of 7-0 losses to quality teams in Portland (10-2) and Sacramento State (5-4 versus a top schedule).
Montana State is 1-0 in Big Sky matches, having defeated Northern Colorado 6-1, and 7-3 overall. The Bobcats have won three straight after defeating Lewis & Clark, Seattle University and Montana State-Billings by 7-0 scores over the weekend.
Last year in Bozeman, the Eagles rallied from a 3-0 deficit for a 4-3 win. Eastern has now won two straight meetings with Montana State after falling in the previous 27.
Idaho is 8-5 and has gone 1-1 versus Big Sky members, losing to Montana State 4-3 and defeating Weber State 4-3. Eastern Washington also defeated Idaho by a 4-3 score last year.
Daniel Pez broke both 3-3 ties with Montana State and Idaho last year with singles victories.
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 are first, second and third, respectively (50, 43 and 42 wins apiece), on the career singles wins listing in the Eastern record book. Senior Daniel Pez is sixth (29), while Riego de Dios, a junior, is currently eighth with 25 victories.
First to 50!
In Eastern Washington's 7-0 defeat of Linfield in Lincoln City, Ore., on Saturday (Feb. 28), Art Karas become the first Eagle ever to record 50 career victories.
His 50th came by 6-2, 6-2 scores on court three.
EWU Doubles Team Knocks Off No. 59
In one of the most impressive doubles wins in school history, Nico Riego de Dios and Kyle Schraeder teamed up for an exciting 9-8 (15-13) victory over No. 59 Anton Stryhas and Kiryl Harbatsiuk of Sacramento State on Friday (Feb. 20).
At the point the Eagles held a 12-11 advantage in the tiebreaker, the Hornet pair broke serve twice to grab its second match point at 13-12. The Eagles then returned the favor by breaking serve twice themselves to go up 14-13 before claiming the 15-13 win.
The duo has played No. 1 doubles the entire season and is 8-3, having won 7-of-8 contests.
Top-Notch Schedule for Eagles in 2009
The Eagles will take 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. 60 BYU, who Eastern Washington will face in Provo, Utah, on March 27.
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.
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.
The two did fall to 35th-ranked Evan Schleining and Filip Zivkovic from Portland, 8-2, on Saturday (Feb. 28).
Impressive Turnaround for Eagles
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 48-32 since the beginning of the 2006 season (16-7 in Big Sky Conference play) after finishing 6-52, 1-25 in league contests, the four years immediately prior (2002-05).
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.