By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech tennis team wrapped up its bid at perfection Saturday afternoon, knocking off Belmont, 6-1, at Tech Tennis Courts to clinch an undefeated conference campaign and the program's fifth Ohio Valley Conference regular season championship in the last six years. The undefeated march through the OVC slate is the club's fourth in the last six seasons, and Saturday's win extends TTU's conference win streak to 23 straight.
Tech (11-6, 6-0) also ends its OVC unblemished voyage by outscoring its opponents 40-2 in six matches.
The Golden Eagles will be the No. 1 seed in next weekend's OVC Tournament, clinching a bye straight to the semifinals where they will await the winner of Belmont and Austin Peay, a Friday affair at 2 p.m. CT. Tech's semifinals match is scheduled for Saturday, Apr. 22 at 2 p.m. from the Centennial Sportsplex in Nashville.
TTU set the tone early in the regular season finale with the Bruins (9-13, 3-3), seizing the doubles point thanks to a battle that went down to the wire out of the No. 2 spot. The Belmont duo of Cedric Dujacquier and Hendrik Inno topped Tech's tandem of Eduardo Mena and Marcos Bernardes, 6-4, in the No. 1 spot, but behind a Marc Mila and Jorge Alfonzo 6-2 nod over Bruno Russo and Vincent Sterkens in the No. 3 slot, the chase for the doubles point was deadlocked at 1-1.
Mena and Bernardes would get revenge in singles play, putting together stellar showings at the top of the TTU lineup as each junior officially put the lid on an undefeated conference singles campaign. Mena, the nation's No. 55 ranked player, won in straight-sets with a 6-0, 6-4 win against Cedric Dujacquier out of the No. 1 spot, while Bernardes registered a 7-6, 7-6 victory over Vincent Sterkens out of the No. 2 slot.
Mena ends the regular season 15-2 in singles play, heading into the OVC Tournament on an 11-match win-streak.
Guillermo Nicolas and Jorge Alfonzo mirrored the performances of Mena and Bernardes with straight-set wins of their own, as Nicolas knocked off Zak Khan, 6-3, 6-3, and Alfonzo disposed of Josiah Collins, 6-2, 6-0. Nicolas has still never lost an OVC singles match in his two-year career, moving to 14-0, while Alfonzo ends the regular season 10-4 and 5-0 in conference play.
Senior Alberto Esteban puts the finishing touches on an impressive career in Cookeville, rallying to win his final tilt at Tech Tennis Courts, 3-6, 7-5, 10-7 over Hendrik Inno in the No. 3 position. Belmont's lone win came out of the No. 6 spot, a Bruno Russo 2-6, 6-1, 7-6 victory against Marc Mila.
Armed with another OVC regular season championship, Tech will look to make it back-to-back OVC Tournament Championships after winning it all last season for the program's first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2006. The Golden Eagles will play Saturday in the semifinals at 2 p.m. CT from Centennial Sportsplex in Nashville.
Photo by Thomas Corhern