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April 19, 2009

Strong start not enough, men's tennis falls at OVC Tournament

PADUCAH, Ky. – The No. 3 seeded Tennessee Tech men’s tennis team started on the right foot in its Ohio Valley Conference semifinal match Saturday against Jacksonville State, winning two of the three doubles matches for an early 1-0 lead.

But that was as far as the young Golden Eagles could take it.

The No. 2 Gamecocks, featuring a veteran lineup with four seniors, walked off the court with four singles points to claim a 4-1 victory and advance to the championship match Sunday.

OVC Player of the Year Dean O’Brien teamed with Josh Girling to claim an 8-3 win at No. 1 singles, and the team of Oscar Pachon and Justin Kirstein worked their way to an 8-5 victory at No. 3 doubles. In between, JSU took an 8-2 win at No. 2 doubles over Alex Chen and Lloyd Harris.

Chen did his best to keep the momentum going into single play, winning his first set, 6-3, at No. 3 singles.

But Tech’s youth couldn’t prevail against the experienced Gamecocks.

At No. 6. Brian Kenyon swept to a 6-2, 6-1 win over Mario Gutierrez to tie the match, and at No. 2, Eduardo Saratt posted a 6-1, 6-3 win over Girling to put the Gamecocks ahead, 2-1.

Kirstein fell at No. 4 to Chris Duke, 6-3, 6-3, and the decision went to the Gamecocks when Scott Robertson outlasted O’Brien at No. 1, 6-4, 7-6 (4). Play was not finished at No. 3 or No. 5.

“Our focus this week was to get off to a good start and win the doubles point, and we were able to do that,” said first-year coach Dan Silverstein. “We thought we could use that momentum and confidence heading into singles, and we played some really good matches, but Jacksonville State played just a little better. We have to give them credit, they beat us.

“We felt like it was the championship match out there because there was so much intensity,” Silverstein said. “They had four seniors and we had so many young guys, but I think our young players will learn from this experience, and we look forward to next year.

“We hate to see the season come to an end, but there have been some great moments and we accomplished a lot,” Silverstein said. “Now we’ll wait to see if Dean qualifies for the NCAA individual championships. I think he has played well enough to deserve it.”