March 13, 2007

Eagles Take Trip out West, Play Oregon, Portland

March 13, 2007

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Eastern Washington will bring a little bit of a hot streak into its road trip to the state of Oregon this weekend, having won 2-of-3 matches in a packed weekend that saw the team play three home matches in a three-day span. Two of those were Big Sky Conference contests.

First up for the Eagles (3-7) is the 20th-ranked University of Oregon Ducks (8-4), who Eastern will play in Eugene at 10 a.m. on Friday (March 16). The next day, Eastern Washington takes on the Portland Pilots (7-4). That contest will commence at 5 p.m.

Last weekend, the Eagles earned 5-2 and 7-0 victories over Montana and Lewis-Clark State, respectively, while falling to Montana State by a 5-2 score. Details of the historic win over Montana are below, while the victory over Lewis-Clark State saw the Eagles win every singles set and sweep the three doubles contests for the first time since doing so in a 7-0 win over Montana State-Billings on March 3, 2006.

A Look at Oregon

The University of Oregon Ducks will bring an 8-4 record into this week's action, following a tough 0-2 road trip last weekend to No. 6 California and No. 4 Stanford. Those were UO's initial Pacific-10 contests of the season. The Ducks opened the season 4-0, lost two 4-3 contests to Michigan and Sacramento State, then won four more consecutively before last week's action.

With a national ranking of 20th, the Ducks are the highest-ranked team on Eastern's schedule (current rankings have past EWU opponents Washington State and Sacramento State ranked 42nd and 46th, respectively).

A Look at Portland

The Pilots will be playing their first match back home after a long road trip to the state of North Carolina, where Portland will have played four matches in a five-day span. Entering Tuesday's play, UP is 7-4 on the season. The Pilots take on UNC Greensboro and Davidson prior to meeting the Eagles.

Historic Win over Montana

An impressive showing against Montana moved the Eagles to 2-1 in Big Sky Conference play for the first time in school history. Eastern Washington has won more than two conference matches in an entire season just once in history, in 1998 (3-3). Eastern also went 2-6 in 2002 and 2-5 in 1999. In fact, the Eagles have won as many league matches this season as they have in the past four years combined (2-27).

The win over the Grizzlies also snapped a 24-match losing streak the Eagles had to Montana dating to a 5-4 win on March 3, 1995.

The contest was the first of the season to be played outdoors, as it took place in very comfortable windless 50-degree temperatures.

The doubles point in the match rested with Eastern's No. 2 team of Kerstyn Dolack and Kasey Knox, who enacted a pair of memorable comebacks. With the score tied, 6-6, the duo trailed, 40-15, and rallied to win the next four rallies to go up, 7-6. Then, with Eastern on serve, the Eagles went down 40-0, but stormed back with three straight points to force deuce. Throughout that game, Dolack and Knox fought off six game points before securing the final three rallies to win the match and secure Eastern the doubles point, 8-6.

After EWU entered singles play with the momentum, the Eagles quickly proceeded to win the first four contests to complete play to take an insurmountable 5-0 lead before falling in the last two matches to finish. Knox clinched the team win when she broke away from a 4-4 tie in the second set for a 6-4, 6-4 win.

March Madness Tennis Style

The Eastern Washington Eagles will have a very hectic March, as the team is in the midst of playing 12 matches this month. Eastern played three matches in three days last week and will later play six contests in a nine-day span at the end of the month. That latter trip will see the team play in four different states (Utah, Idaho, Arizona and Texas). This comes after a light February that saw the Eagles play just two matches that month.

Opening the Big Sky Season in Winning Fashion

Earlier this season, the Eagles won their opening Big Sky match of the season, defeating Northern Colorado on the road in clutch fashion, 4-3, on Jan. 27.

In that contest, Eastern grabbed control of the match by claiming all three doubles contests and then winning three of the first five singles matches to complete play to secure its win.

Kasey Knox, Kerstyn Dolack and Marie Demerath were able to contribute singles and doubles wins to the mix. Demerath played a role in the clinching doubles match, teaming up with Rachel Berger for the win, and then finished off Northern Colorado as a team by virtue of an impressive 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 comeback victory in singles play.

Dolack Claims Big Sky POW Honors

Eagle soccer-turned-tennis player Kerstyn Dolack had an excellent week in the Rocky Mountains from Jan. 26-28, as she went 2-1 in both singles and doubles play and earned the initial Big Sky Conference Player of the Week honors of 2007.

In doubles play, she teamed up with Kasey Knox at the No. 1 position to defeat Northern Colorado's Tabatha Knop and Christina Shelly, 8-6, in Eastern's first Big Sky match of the season. The tandem also defeated Laura Neal and Lauren Strasburger of Colorado State, 8-5, while falling to Air Force's Liz Walker and Lauren Wilson by a close 8-6 margin.

Dolack played No. 3 singles her first two matches of the week and earned a pair of straight-set victories, topping Walker, 6-0, 7-6 (8-6), and Meredith Krystofik of Northern Colorado, 7-5, 6-3. She then moved up to the second slot her final match of the three-match trip to the Centennial State, but dropped a 6-2, 6-1 decision to Colorado State's Laura Neal.

The honor is Dolack's first. Last year, Knox won the award twice and Rachel Berger earned accolades once. Prior to 2006, the last time an Eagle achieved the honor was in 2002.

Dolack previously played forward for the Eagles soccer team from 2003-05 and saw action in 51 games, scoring four goals and adding four assists.

Top-Notch Schedule for Eagles in 2007

The Eagles are coming off an impressive 2006 season and are taking on top competition this year, as three nationally-ranked squads are on the slate for Eastern Washington. The Eagles have already played No. 42 Washington State and 46th-ranked Sacramento State (current rankings) and are scheduled to take on No. 20 Oregon in Eugene this week.

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 and 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 nagging injuries," Dreves said.

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