Men’s tennis starts strong in quest to build off successful 2015 season

By Brandon Cline, Sports Editor

After ending the 2015 conference season winning three out of its last four matches, the EWU men’s tennis team started 2016 downing the Seattle Redhawks and the Whitworth Pirates in a pair of home matches on Jan. 23.

In their first match since the beginning of November 2015, the Eagles came out swinging against Whitworth, winning two of the three doubles matches to earn the ever-important doubles point. Junior Robert Dula partnered with freshman Victor Pereira in the first doubles slot, coasting past the Pirates’ first doubles team, 6-1.

Sophomore Vuk Vuckovic and junior Wacil Bendjelti, EWU’s second doubles team, dispatched Whitworth’s second doubles team, 6-2. The Pirates denied being swept, as their third doubles team grinded out a tough 7-6 (7-5) set win over the team of senior Eduardo Bringold and junior Luke Ness.

With the doubles point already in hand, the Eagles breezed past the Pirates in the six singles matches, dropping 16 games in 12 sets. Dula, slotted in the first singles position where he went 9-10 last season, breezed past Whitworth’s Drew Brigham, 6-0, 6-0.

Pereira, a freshman who hails from São Paulo, Brazil, handled Blake Miller in the second singles match, 6-2, 6-2. Bringold and Whitworth’s Layne Ryerson played the tightest singles match of the day in the third slot, with Bringold edging out Ryerson in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4.
Vuckovic and Bendjelti recorded comfortable straight set wins in the fourth and fifth singles positions, while redshirt junior Rendell Burghart did not drop a game in the sixth singles spot.

The Eagles would face stiffer competition in their second match of the day, but again clinched the doubles point after all three doubles teams won their matches over Seattle. Dula and Pereira played sharp – dispatching the Redhawks’ first doubles team, 6-1. The Eagles’ two other doubles teams both won their sets, 6-4.

The doubles point would prove critical, as the Eagles and Redhawks split the six singles matches. Dula took care of business in the first singles slot, winning, 6-0, 6-1, and losing just one game in four sets on the singles side. Pereira won the first set, 6-1, against Seattle’s John Stormans, but dropped the final two sets, 6-3 and 6-0, to lose the match.

“We lost full momentum,” said head coach Steve Clark to regarding Pereira’s match. Bringold and Vuckovic won their matches without much trouble in straight sets, ensuring the Eagles 4 points and a victory for a 2-0 start to the season. Bendjelti and Burghart both lost in straight, albeit competitive, sets in the fifth and sixth singles spots.

“It was great to get off to a 2-0 start but as I have said over the years, the process is more important than the result so I was more pleased with how we made improvements in various areas and particularly from one match to the next on the same day,” Clark said.

The Eagles make a quick trip to Spokane on Jan. 27 to match up against Gonzaga University at 3 p.m. EWU also hosts UC Riverside on Jan. 30 at 10 a.m. in the Jim Thorpe Fieldhouse.