By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – It went right down to the wire, but when the dust finally settled, the Tennessee Tech tennis team kept its bid at a third-straight OVC Tournament title very much alive. Come Sunday, shades of purple and gold will be well represented in the tourney's title match as Tech will be fighting for a spot in the NCAA Tournament at 10 a.m. CT from inside Nashville's Centennial Sportslplex.
The second-seeded Golden Eagles (9-11) prevailed 4-3 over No. 3 Jacksonville State in Saturday's seminal to propel TTU to its third-consecutive championship match appearance. Tech awaits the winner of Saturday's second semifinal pitting No. 1 Belmont against No. 4 Eastern Kentucky.
The Golden Eagles, who have captured the last two tourney titles, needed a win in the final singles bout to seize the semifinals clash with the Gamecocks (15-5). Deadlocked at 3-3, junior Wencesalo Albin was up to the task, prevailing when the lights were brightest with a 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 win over Pablo Caffarena in the No. 2 spot.
Trailing 3-2, JSU set the stage for the dramatic finish behind a Jaquin Vallejo three-set nod in the No. 3 position. The Asuncion, Paraguay native downed Marc Mila, 6-3, 5-7, 7-5 to square things up in the tilt's waning moments.
No. 68 Eduardo Mena put Tech in a prime position early thanks to a 6-3, 6-0 win against OVC Freshman of the Year, Ajaz Kaplja, in the No. 1 spot. The victory gave the Golden Eagles a 2-0 lead after TTU captured the doubles point.
Gonzalo Garcia joined Mena and Albin in the win column with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Andres Gomez in the No. 6 slot. JSU's other two singles nods came in the No. 4 and No. 5 spots as Guillermo Agost bested Jorge Alfonzo, 6-1, 6-1, in the No. 4 battle and Sergio Lizarraga took down Riku Kubota, 6-3, 7-6, in the No. 5 clash.
TTU's win in doubles action proved to be monumental in the match's narrow decision. The Golden Eagles secured victories in the No. 2 and No. 3 positions, with the Tech tandem of Wenceslao Albin and Riku Kubota gliding to a 6-4 victory against Sergio Lizarraga and Pablo Caffarena in the No. 2 spot and the Golden Eagle duo of Eduardo Mena and Gonzalo Garcia soaring to a 6-3 win against Ajaz Kaplja and Paolo Cucalon in the No. 3 matchup.
Tech's bid at a third-straight NCAA Tournament appearance begins at 10 a.m. CT from inside the Centennial Sportsplex.
Photo by Tony Marable