The Tech men’s tennis team earned three victories, including two Ohio Valley Conference wins, moving it into first place in the OVC over the weekend in Cookeville, Tenn.The Golden Eagles defeated Morehead State University by a 6-1 score on March 20. On March 21, Tech improved its OVC record to 2-0 with a 5-2 victory over the University of Tennessee at Martin. In non-conference play, the Golden Eagles won their third match of the weekend over Appalachian State University by a 4-3 score on March 22.
“I thought we played well all the way up and down the lineup,” said first-year head coach Dan Silverstein. “It was great to play at home, and we did exactly what we wanted to get the conference season started.”
In the match against MSU, the Golden Eagles won the first match point with doubles victories by the teams of sophomores Dean O’Brien and Josh Girling and freshmen Justin Kirstein and Oscar Pachon.
In singles play, Tech controlled the match with wins by O’Brien, Girling, Kirstein, Pachon and sophomore Mario Gutierrez. All the Golden Eagle wins came in straight sets including Gutierrez, who defeated MSU’s Charles Hodge, 6-0, 6-0.
On the following day, the Golden Eagles won again by defeating UT-Martin.
The Skyhawks began the match by winning the doubles point. UT-Martin’s Stephen Bruwer and Andrey Yesipov defeated O’Brien and Girling, 8-6. The Skyhawks earned their second doubles win when UT-Martin’s Alfredo Krywacz and Petr Markov outscored freshman Alex Chen and Gutierrez, 9-8 (7-5).
“They came in and took the doubles points from us, and I take the blame for that,” said Silverstein. “Our energy just wasn’t there to start the match. We were flat, but we can fix that.”
The Golden Eagles rallied in singles play by winning five of the six match-ups. O’Brien improved his spring season record to 9-1 with a victory over UT-Martin’s Bruwer, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4). Sophomore James Crawford got into the action and defeated Skyhawk Shuntaro Tsukiyama, 6-0, 6-0.
“I was proud that we came back and won five of six singles points to win the match,” said Silverstein. “Dean continues to lead us on the court, and James stepped in at No. 6 and won, and he gave us some depth.”
Tech ended the weekend stand with a non-conference win over ASU, 4-3.
The Mountaineers jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead by winning the doubles match point. ASU’s Bobby Lake and Lee Floyd defeated O’Brien and Girling, 8-2. The clincher came for the Mountaineers when their team of Peter Jacobs and Trent Constance outscored Chen and Gutierrez, 8-4.
Kirstein and Pachon gave Tech its only doubles victory with a win over ASU’s Britton Webb and Phillip Kloc, 8-6.
When the match moved into singles play, the Golden Eagles turned the competition around.
O’Brien brought the match to an even keel by defeating ASU’s Lake, 6-4, 6-3. After falling behind in the first set, Chen rallied to win the next two sets over the Mountaineer’s Jacobs, 2-6, 6-2, 6-1. Pachon gave Tech a 3-1 match lead by rebuffing ASU’s Constance, 7-6, 6-0.
ASU, however, was not ready to give up the match. The Mountaineer’s Kloc cut the Tech lead to 3-2 with his win over Gutierrez, 6-3, 6-2. When ASU’s Alain Humblet staved off Crawford, 6-3, 6-4, he evened the match 3-3.
The deciding match-up was between Kirstein and the Mountaineer’s Floyd and they battled back and forth for the victory.
Kirstein surrendered the first set, 4-6. He fought back and rallied to win the second set over Floyd, 6-1.
In the third set, Floyd sprung to an early lead of 5-2. Kirstein, suffering from leg cramps, worked his way back into the match, saving five match points on his way to evening out the third set duel.
“I actually started cramping midway in the third when I was 4-3 down,” said Kirstein. “In my heart, I just believed I could beat him so I continued fighting and trying not to show him that I was cramping.”
Kirstein carried the momentum of his late rally and earned a 7-5 victory in the third set, giving Tech the win over ASU.
“After I won, I felt so relieved,” said Kirstein. “The team really needed this win and I was honored to do the job.
“This win will hopefully build the teams confidence for the up-coming matches.”
The win improved Tech’s overall record to 6-5, giving them a winning record for the first time this season.
“App. State took it to us in doubles, but we responded in singles,” Silverstein said. “This was a great team win, and it gives us momentum heading to Jacksonville State next Saturday.”
The Golden Eagles’ next match is at 11 a.m. on March 28 against Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Ala.