EWU women’s tennis enters Big Sky championships with all-time best conference record


Bailey Monteith

Sophomore Zoey Nelson swings at practice on April 20. Nelson finished conference play with a 5-1 record in No. 3 singles and a 7-2 record in No. 2 doubles with partner freshman Louise Waite.

By Drew Lawson, Reporter

After a regular season that featured the best winning percentage in head coach Dustin Hinson’s seven seasons at EWU, and the best conference record in school history, the women’s tennis team is gearing up for the Big Sky Conference Championship on April 25-27 in Phoenix.

EWU finished the season 8-2 in conference and 12-9 overall. The Eagles had a chance to win their first regular season BSC title in program history on April 20, but lost 6-1 to four-time defending champion Northern Arizona. EWU fell into a three-way tie for second with Idaho and Weber State, and didn’t gain the tiebreaker over either school, securing the No. 4 seed for the BSC championships.

The Eagles will take on No. 5 seed Southern Utah in the quarterfinals, whom they beat 4-3 on April 19.

This is the third time in Hinson’s stint as head coach that EWU has made the BSC championship tournament, and the first time that the Eagles have finished higher than No. 6 in the regular season standings. The top six regular season finishers advance to the BSC championships. Hinson said the team has leaned on remembering its motto, “Unite the Fight,” during its run throughout the regular season.

“The unity part we’ve really been focusing on,” Hinson said. “Being a team unit and playing for each other, (not) playing for yourself. (We) realize that we need each other to be successful … They’ve been doing a really good job of being unselfish throughout the season and building momentum from there … The physical talent is there, but tennis is so much more than that. It’s so mental.”

Sophomore Zoey Nelson and freshman Madeline Lamoreaux led EWU in the regular season in singles play and had strong doubles performances across the board. Nelson went 10-7 in singles play, while Lamoreaux finished 13-8. Lamoreaux teamed up with sophomore Rylee Braeden to go 15-5 in doubles, while Nelson and freshman Louise Waite went 10-3.

Senior Faye Worrall and freshman Yasmin Mansouri went 7-3 together in doubles play. Nelson said the commitment of this year’s team has allowed EWU to rise in the rankings.

“All the girls are really good in their own individual way, and we’re all super hard working,” Nelson said. “Everybody’s putting in the time and effort it takes. I think the determination is definitely there.”

Nelson added that she and Waite are both aggressive players, which contributed to their favorable record as a pair.

“We go out there and just stick to being aggressive and hitting the right shots,” Nelson said. “When staying positive mentally, we’re on fire.”

Hinson noted that EWU has fielded a very young team, as five of the team’s top six performers are underclassmen. Despite the youth, he said the team has done a good job of avoiding outside mental distractions that come with tennis.

“There’s so much out of our control, including conditions,” Hinson said. “Weather-wise, if you’re outside it’s sun, wind, any rain that might move in. And then what your opponent might be doing and what’s going on around you, not letting that distract you. You put the blinders on, which can be really tough to do but this team has done an awesome job of that.”

EWU’s home record (6-2) was better than its road record (6-7). Hinson said the familiarity of Cheney’s conditions and courts, as well as being able to play all home matches indoors, contributed to that trend.

“We’re a really good indoor team (and) we have a brand new surface in the (Fieldhouse),” Hinson said. “It’s been good to be able to train on that every day and then have teams that come in that maybe are (used to) hitting on a surface that may be faster or slower.”

EWU also performed much better in BSC play (8-2) than in nonconference play (4-7). Hinson said he likes to schedule tough nonconference games, which isn’t difficult to do when you’re in Washington.

This year, the Eagles played against the University of Washington, which defeated EWU 7-0 on January 27 and is currently ranked No. 13 in the country. They also played Washington State, which is in the top 35, and Gonzaga, who momentarily entered the top 25 and fields one of the top players in the country, Sophie Whittle. The Bulldogs and Cougars both skunked EWU 7-0.

“In the Northwest, if you look at all the other teams in Division I tennis … they’re all very very good,” Hinson said. “The state of Washington, for whatever reason, women’s tennis is really strong.”

While Hinson favored tough competition, he said that it’s important to have a nonconference schedule balance, where the Eagles will be favored in some matches.

As EWU looks ahead to the BSC championship, Hinson said there will be a lot of difficult potential matches.

“Certainly Idaho,” Hinson said. “Northern Arizona’s very tough, and they’ve been tough for the past several years … We (lost) to Weber State, and they’re very strong … We cannot overlook Southern Utah, and we won’t. They beat us last year.”

For Nelson, keys to tournament success will come from within.

“Whether we’re traveling or at home, we say it’s always a home match,” Nelson said. “That means supporting each other, working hard, fighting for everything and never giving up. If we keep doing that, we’ll be good.”•