Cheney, Wash. - With a new season on the horizon, the Eastern Washington University men's tennis team is looking to improve on last year's performances. A number of challenging non-conference matches headlines the Eagles' 2015-16 schedule, ensuring a great test for EWU.
The season begins with the Eagles playing host to the EWU Fall Classic tournament Friday, Sept. 18 through Sunday, Sept. 20. Afterwards, the team will take a trip to Tulsa, Okla., for the OK ITA All American tournament. There they hope to play well and advance deep into the tournament.
Opportunity is a major focus of Clark's tenure at Eastern; opportunities such as the aforementioned ITA All American. "I wanted to give them a shot at a national tournament. It's a good opportunity for them to showcase their talents", said Coach Clark.
Transitioning from the All-American tournament, the Eagles head out to the ITA Regionals in Seattle, Wash., from Oct. 22-26. The Individual Tournaments hosted by Gonzaga from Oct. 31 through Nov. 1 will conclude Eastern's fall schedule.
Facing opponent Whitworth for their spring opener, the Eagles hope to tally a victory for the first match of the new year, Saturday, Jan. 23 at 10:00 am. Immediately after, they will host Seattle University at 3:00 pm the same day. Coach Clark mentioned, "Players want to play as much as possible, so I tried to schedule two matches a day as much as I could."
Clark will be entering his second year as head coach at EWU. Having had great success in each of his previous coaching stints, improvements in all facets can be expected this season. Clark came on board with the program in the hopes of developing it. "You can't get any better without a challenging schedule, a much tougher schedule. Look at several of the teams, if they're not ranked, then they have players that are. I like a high percentage of ranked teams."
Notable matches throughout the year include Gonzaga (Jan. 27), Washington (Mar. 21), and UC Irvine (Mar. 24). Other matches are Seattle University (Jan, 23) and UC Riverside (Mar. 23). After falling to each of these opponents last season, Eastern has the opportunity to come out victorious in these non-conference rematches, and make a bold statement about EWU Tennis.
Eastern will also face off against some new competitors with Air Force (Feb. 11) and Hawaii (Mar. 26). Non-conference play also includes a stop in Dallas, Texas at SMU. The noteworthy matches include SMU (Feb. 26), and Abilene Christian (Feb. 28).
The season finishes off with a four match stretch against the top ranked teams in the Big Sky last season. Idaho, last season's conference champion, visits Cheney on Apr. 6, followed by Montana State (Apr. 9), Montana (Apr. 10), and the final match, at home, against Weber State (Apr. 16), who finished 10-1 in conference play last year. Arguably this is the toughest stretch of the schedule, and Eastern has a major opportunity to showcase all the hard work they've done.
Eastern must prove to be tenacious to get through this season; but with all their practice and preparation, it's time for the results to show. Coach Clark summed it up best in his concluding thoughts on the upcoming schedule, "Last year was tougher than a lot of guys have ever experienced, and this year will be even tougher."