April 24, 2007
After playing a pair of hastily-scheduled matches on Sunday (April 22), the Eastern Washington Eagles now have their eyes set on the Big Sky Conference Championship.
Eastern Washington, the fourth seed at the tournament, will open up play with No. 5 Montana (5-16, 3-4 BSC) at 2 p.m. on Friday (April 27). The winner of that contest will move on to a semifinal battle at 2 p.m. the next day. The title contest will be played at 2 p.m. on Sunday. The winner of that match will advance to the NCAA Tournament. A complete bracket can be viewed on the last page of the notes package available above.
"There's a lot of parity in our conference," head coach Patrick Dreves said. "It will be interesting. Sacramento State is a heavy favorite with NAU a heavy favorite to make it to the final, but other than that, the rest of us are relatively close."
When Montana and EWU met on March 9, it was Eastern who came away with a 5-2 victory to snap a 24-match losing streak to the Grizzlies dating to a 5-4 win on March 3, 1995.
"We expect a good match against Montana on Friday," Dreves said.
All matches will be played at the Gold River Racquet Club in Gold River, Calif. Sacramento State is hosting the tournament.
The Eagles finished the regular season with an 8-14 regular-season record, 4-3 in Big Sky competition. The eight overall wins are the most earned by an EWU women's tennis squad since the 1993 team went 10-8, while the conference record is the first winning one ever earned by an Eastern squad.
"We are excited to have the opportunity to go down there and compete," Dreves said.
In all-time postseason competition, Eastern is 2-39. That includes a 2-20 mark in Big Sky Tournaments (1991-96, 2003, 2005-06) and 0-19 record in Mountain Regional Championships (1997-02).
What a Turnaround!
To put Eastern's 8-14 overall and 4-3 Big Sky Conference records more into perspective, consider this. The Eagles earned eight wins from 2001-05 combined (8-70) before starting its turnaround with a 7-13 mark last year. Eastern Washington earned four conference wins in the previous five years combined (4-33).
Earning a Split with the Bulldogs
The Eastern Washington Eagles responded to a 4-3 loss to Gonzaga on their home courts on April 5 with a 5-2 victory over the Bulldogs in Spokane exactly a week later.
The first result came down to the wire, while the second match-up saw Eastern respond to losing the doubles point by winning 5-of-6 singles matches for a dominating win. The only singles loss came when Kerstyn Dolack needed to retire from her match at No. 2 singles.
The match marked the second time this season the Eagles have rallied from losing the doubles point to win a match (the first came in a 4-3 win at Weber State on March 23).
A Record for Knox
Eagle junior Kasey Knox set the school record for singles victories in a season when two on Sunday (April 22) pushed her 2007 spring total to 14, breaking a six-way tie for the top spot. She defeated Lewis-Clark State's top player, Maria Resende, 6-2, 6-2, and Idaho's No. 1 competitor, Patricia Ruman, 6-2, 6-4.
Even more impressive, all 14 of Knox's wins have come in the No. 1 position. She has gone 5-2 against the top players of each of the Big Sky Conference schools.
Marie Demerath earned a pair of wins on that day, as well, to pull into a six-way tie for the second spot (tying what would have been the old record). She now has 12 on the season, just two behind Knox for the school record.
Records date back to 1991.
Classic Match Highlights First GU-EWU Meeting
The match of the day in Eastern Washington's 4-3 loss to Gonzaga on April 5 was at No. 1 singles, where EWU's Kasey Knox outlasted Emily Anderson in an epic contest, 3-6, 7-6 (12-10), (10-7).
In the match, Knox was down, 4-1, in the second set before rallying for a 6-5 lead. Anderson then forced the tiebreaker by tying the score, 6-6.
In that race to seven (win by two), Anderson took control with a 6-3 edge, but Knox staved off three successive match points to tie the score, 6-6. By the time she secured the final three points of the second stanza for a 12-10 win, Knox had fought through five separate match points.
As the team result was decided while the players were resting up for a third set, the two played a supertiebreaker instead (race to 10). This time it was Knox who took a commanding 9-5 lead before claiming a 10-7 victory.
A Perfect Weekend
Eastern Washington went 3-0 in three road matches from March 23-25, defeating Weber State in a tight Big Sky Conference match, 4-3, before outlasting Utah State in non-conference play, 5-2, and sweeping Idaho State in a league contest, 7-0.
The Weber State contest came down to the No. 2 singles match, where Kerstyn Dolack rallied from 6-4, 5-4 (30-15) down to win the second set, 7-5, and the deciding stanza, 6-4. Her win completed an impressive rally which saw the Eagles come back from losing the doubles point to earn a win for the first time this season (Eastern is currently 6-1 when winning the doubles point, 2-12 when not successful in earning the doubles tally).
A pair of Eagles in Marie Demerath and Amanda Mankovits teamed up for a dramatic 9-8 win at No. 3 doubles to clinch for Eastern the doubles point in its 5-2 win over Utah State before each rallied from one set down for singles victories. Demerath won, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 on the sixth court, while Mankovits earned a 4-6, 7-6, 6-4 victory at No. 5. The Eagles held a precarious 3-2 lead before those two results clinched the victory for Eastern.
The Eagles completed the perfect weekend with a dominating 7-0 win over Idaho State. The shutout victory was the first by EWU over an NCAA Division I opponent since defeating Portland State twice by 7-0 scores in 2001. The Eagles won all three doubles match-ups with Idaho State and each of the six singles contests were earned in straight sets.
The latter victory moved Eastern Washington to 4-2 in Big Sky play (EWU would finish 4-3), clinching for the Eagles their first winning conference record in school history (the 1998 squad went 3-3). The Eagles actually have earned as many league wins this season as they had in the previous five years combined (4-33). The Eagles entered the 2007 season 11-51 all-time in Big Sky contests.
The Eagles impressively went 3-1 in Big Sky Conference road matches in 2007.
Demerath Takes Home Big Sky Player of the Week Honors
Eastern Washington University women's tennis player Marie Demerath earned Co-Big Sky Conference Player of the Week honors for her performances over the weekend of March 23-25, helping lead the Eagles to 4-3 wins over Weber State and Utah State and a 7-0 whitewashing of Idaho State. She became the second Eagle this season to be so named after Kerstyn Dolack did so the last week of January.
After starting the weekend's play on a sour note, losing in doubles play (with Amanda Mankovits) in Eastern's match with Weber State on March 23, she responded in impressive fashion by not tasting a loss the rest of the weekend in either singles or doubles play.
Demerath helped rally Eastern Washington to its first win of the season when losing the doubles point in the Weber State match. Her 6-2, 6-4 victory was the second singles contest to finish and earned EWU a 2-1 advantage on its way to a 4-3 win.
The next day against Utah State, she and Mankovits, with the doubles point riding on their result, dramatically pulled through with a 9-8 victory. In singles, she rallied from a first-set loss for the first time this season for a 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 victory to secure Eastern an insurmountable 4-2 lead on its way to a 5-2 win.
Then on March 25 against Idaho State, Demerath helped lead the Eagles to their first 7-0 victory over an NCAA Division I opponent in six years with singles and doubles wins.
The team victories clinched for Eastern its first winning conference season in school history. Incredibly, EWU won as many league contests this season (4-3) as it had in the previous five years combined (4-33). Overall, EWU is 6-10 and has the second-most number of victories for an Eastern squad since the 1996 team went 7-15 (last year's team went 7-13).
Sharing the Co-Big Sky Player of the Week honors was Sacramento State's Joyce Martinez Gutierrez.
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. In fact, the Eagles at that time had already won as many league matches in 2007 as they had 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 acquired from the doubles results, 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 to finish off a 6-4, 6-4 win.
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, as three nationally-ranked squads were on the slate for Eastern Washington. Eastern played No. 50 Washington State, 58th-ranked Sacramento State and No. 40 Oregon (current rankings).
The lone nationally-ranked singles or doubles opponent is No. 105 Katrina Zheltova of Sacramento State, who defeated Kasey Knox in No. 1 singles in the team's meeting on Feb. 9.
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.