Spokane, Wash. – After stellar showings at the Eagle Classic and the ITA Regionals, the Eastern Washington University men's tennis team concluded its fall season in impressive fashion this past weekend at the Bulldog Classic, hosted by Gonzaga.
The tournament, which was held from Friday, Oct. 30, to Sunday, Nov. 1, saw numerous EWU players advance deep into the bracket, including a victory in the doubles back draw.
Eastern's solid showing this past weekend put a cap on what has been a stellar fall season. Junior Robert Dula claimed the singles title at the Eagle Classic back in September and helped the Eagles to their best-ever performance at the ITA Regionals in Seattle two weeks ago. At the ITA Regionals, Dula notched a win over the tournament's No. 17 seed and teamed up with junior Wacil Bendjelti to reach the quarterfinals in doubles.
The tournament contained two different draws, a blue and red, for the singles portion. In the blue draw made up of the tournament's top players, No. 2 seed Robert Dula fought all the way into the quarterfinals. He began the run with a win over Portland State's Brent Wheeler 6-4, 6-0. He then moved on to Jordan Smith of Gonzaga with a solid win that ended 6-4, 6-4. But in the quarterfinals, Dula fell just short in a hard fought match that ended 7-6, 4-6, 6-4 in favor of Portland's Mathieu Garcia.
In the red singles draw, No. 4 seed sophomore Vuk Vuckovic battled his way into the semifinals with a win over Portland player Ethan Ogard 6-1, 7-6, coming off of a bye in the first round. In the red singles back draw, junior Luke Ness played his way into the quarterfinals, starting with a long match against Montana State's Charlie Edgecombe. After two sets the match was tied with scores of 6-2, 3-6, and it ended with the third lasting to a score of 11-9, with Ness having just enough to take down Edgecombe. He then faced Patrick Lapke of Gonzaga and defeated him 6-4, 7-6, before losing to the eventual back draw champion Idaho's Jackson Varney.
In the Doubles draw, the No. 4 seed duo of Dula and Bendjelti nearly reached the finals, but lost by a break despite having three break points to even the score, to the Portland combo, and No. 1 seed of Pervolarakis and Fan 8-5. To get to that position they beat the other Portland pair of Sundaram and Fisher, as well as the Idaho team of Barta and Fonseca with a close score of 8-7.
In the doubles back draw, playing alongside the main draw match of Dula and Bendjelti, filling the courts with Eagle red, were with the team of Vuckovic and senior Eduardo Bringold as they won the championship round over fellow teammates Ness and freshman Victor Pereira with a score of 6-3. Both teams added two wins to their total to reach the final round. Before their loss in the championship, Ness and Pereira beat Montana's Satishchandra and Barcot 6-3, and Gonzaga's Moreno and Arend 6-3 as well. For Vuckovic and Bringold this included a 6-3 win over Idaho's Shin and Coutinho, and finishing ahead of Montana's Mimnagh-Fleming and Soltyka 6-4.
The team showed up big in many ways this tournament, and coach Steve Clark shared his thoughts on it, "Overall the weekend had Eagles in every level. We had Luke Ness in the semi of the back draw--last to Varney of Idaho. 3 of our 3 doubles teams playing on the last day as well. And of course Rob in the Main draw semi singles and Rob and Wacil in the main draw semi dubs." But he believes the team's potential is much higher and has progress to make, "The team is getting better but has a long way to go in other areas, having some important introspection to do in order to shore up some areas significantly."
This tournament marks the last one on Eastern's fall schedule for the men's team, as they will continue play in 2016 on Saturday, Jan. 23 with matches against Whitworth and Seattle University.