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Golden Eagles hosts two important OVC matches on final weekend of season


By Rob Schabert, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Tech tennis team could be facing a couple of must-win situations this weekend when it wraps up the regular season with two home matches. The outcomes could determine whether the Golden Eagles reach the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament.

The Golden Eagles will welcome Eastern Kentucky Saturday and Morehead State on Sunday. Both matches begin at 11 a.m. on the Tech campus tennis courts. Admission is free.

Tech comes into the weekend with a 3-4 conference record, putting the Golden Eagles in seventh place. The top six teams will play in the tournament, April 17-19 in Paducah, so Tech must find a way to move up at least one spot. What makes the weekend more interesting is the fact that both visiting teams are also in the hunt for tournament berths.

Eastern Kentucky is one spot behind Tech with a 3-5 record, while Morehead State is in fourth place with a 4-3 record. The MSU Eagles are one of three teams with three losses (SIUE and Eastern Illinois are both 3-3) that Tech is chasing.

Tech owns a commanding 48-19 all-time record in the series with Eastern Kentucky, but the Colonels have won five of the past seven matches. The Golden Eagles claimed a 4-3 win a year ago on the EKU courts, while the Colonels elimiated Tech from the OVC Tournament in 2012 in Nashville.

EKU doesn't have anybody who has dominated in singles play this spring, but does boast three players with wins in double digits. The leader is Daridge Saidi who is 11-9 overall, including a 5-2 mark at No. 2 singles. FLorian Graskamp is 10-8 overall, with a 5-4 mark at No. 5 singles. At the top of the lineup, ALex Alvaro is 10-10 overall, with a 3-5 record at No. 1 and a 7-5 mark at No. 2.

Alvaro ad Juanjo La Llera have a 7-5 record at No. 1 to pace EKU in doubles play.

Morehead State trails in the all-time series with Tech, 38-19, and the Golden Eagles have won eight consecutive meetings with MSU.

The Eagles have had success in several spots in the lineup on their way to a 9-7 overall record. The top record on the team belongs to David Clifford, who is 12-4 overall including 12-2 at No. 5 singles. Giovanni Samaha has built a 10-5 record in the No. 2 slot, Gabriel Ruiz is 9-6 at No. 6, and Nick Mercer has gone 8-6 at No. 4.

In doubles, Ruiz and Samaha are 6-2 at No. 3, while the No. 1 pair of Ji Hoon Heo and Jack Swindells are 7-7 overall.

Tech is paced by sophomore Oleksiy Arovin in the No. 1 spot, where he is 13-2 in dual matches and 20-10 overall in his first season since transferring from Oklahoma State. Freshman Alberto Esteban has also produced a winning record in singles action, posting a 7-5 record including a 7-2 worksheet at No. 2 singles.

Tech's two top doubles pairings are both 3-1 in conference play and one win above .500 for the year. Arovin and Esteban are 5-4 in dual doubles contests at No. 1, while senior Vasily Eremeev (in photo above) and junior Artem Tarasov own a 6-5 mark at No. 2.

The weekend will mark the final home matches in the four-year career of Eremeev, the lone senior on the Tech roster.