Huskies Face Eagles For First Serve Of 2009 Season
Jan. 7, 2009
THIS WEEK: The Washington men's tennis team opens the 2009 season this Saturday at the Nordstrom Tennis Center against Eastern Washington. The match, set for a noon start time, is the first of fourteen home matches for UW this season. The Huskies return nearly their entire roster this season, and will look to get off on the right foot Saturday with the eventual goal of returning to the NCAA Championships in May, which the Huskies have reached in all of head coach Matt Anger's previous fourteen seasons.
SCOUTING EASTERN WASHINGTON: The Eagles from across the state pulled off consecutive comebacks in the Big Sky Conference tournament last year, winning the conference for the first time ever and earning a trip to NCAA's. Eastern Washington traveled to the same NCAA Regional site as the Huskies, facing UCLA in the first round and falling, 4-0. The Eagles return six starters this season, including first team All-Big Sky members Pannhara Mam, Nico Riego de Rios and Kyle Schraeder. EWU head coach Darren Haworth was named 2008 conference Coach of the Year. The Huskies swept the Eagles, 7-0, in Seattle on March 14 last season, and have not lost to Eastern in six previous meetings.
2009 SEASON PREVIEW: After an influx of six newcomers last season, with nine players in their first or second year on the team, inexperience mixed with talent to produce an up and down season that ended in the first round of the NCAA Championships. This year, having lost only one starter, Andy Kuharszky, the Huskies as a whole are one year older and wiser and hope that their games will reflect that. Washington has seven returning players that started seven or more dual matches last year, led by senior Patrik Fischer, and sophomore Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan. Fischer and Nedunchezhiyan held the top two singles spots last season, with Fischer earning All-Pac-10 Second Team honors and Nedunchezhiyan getting honorable mention. Veterans Derek Drabble and David Chu are back and should be entrenched in the singles lineup, along with sophomore Martin Kildahl, who came on strong at the end of 2008 and could find himself playing much higher in the order. For a complete season preview with head coach Matt Anger's thoughts on the season, visit www.gohuskies.com.
2008 BRINGS ANOTHER TOURNEY APPEARANCE: For a team with six newcomers, just one senior, and one of the nation's most difficult schedules, the 2008 season figured to be a challenge. Looking back on the season, the Huskies bore the marks of what they were from the start, a very talented but inexperienced team. Thrilling home victories over highly-ranked teams such as Alabama and Pepperdine were countered by struggles on the road, where the Huskies played four of their seven Pac-10 matches. Washington hosted the ITA National Team Indoor Championships in February, scoring a win over then-No. 10 Alabama, but losing close calls to No. 2 Georgia and No. 11 Illinois. From that point, the Huskies went on a seven-match win streak, including a 4-3 win over Pepperdine who ended the year ranked 14th. Pac-10 play started at home against the conference's top two teams, UCLA and USC, and the Huskies struggled for the only time at home, losing 6-1 in both matches. From there UW picked up a road win at Arizona, but lost three straight conference road matches, the toughest a 4-3 defeat at Cal. Washington then bounced back with a sweep of the Ducks in their season finale to finish at 2-5 in Pac-10 play. The Huskies earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships, where for the second year in a row they faced Wisconsin in the first round. Unfortunately the result was the same as in 2007, as the Badgers ended the Huskies' season a little too early for their liking. The UW finished with a 14-10 record. Senior Andy Kuharszky led the team with 14 dual match wins, mostly at No. 3 singles, followed closely by the 13 of junior Patrik Fischer, who assumed the No. 1 singles spot and finished the season ranked 95th. Fischer and freshman Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan, the top two singles players, comprised the top doubles tandem, going 8-6 at No. 1 doubles.
UP NEXT: Washington plays twice next week, hosting the Portland Pilots on Friday, Jan. 16 at 5 p.m., and then facing its first ranked opponent of the season as No. 67 San Francisco comes to town for a 12 noon match on Sunday, Jan. 18. The following week sees one of the highlights of the 2009 schedule, as No. 1-ranked Ohio State comes to town on Sunday, Jan. 25.