Photo: Alex Chen (foreground) and Lloyd Harris hope to help lead Tech to another OVC title and NCAA Tournament appearance
PADUCAH, Ky. -- The Tennessee Tech men's tennis team has advanced to the NCAA Tournament four times since 1998, but none of the current squad members has tasted the sweetness of post-season play. This weekend, the Golden Eagles need just three wins in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament in Paducah, Ky., to claim another chance to sample the flavor of the national gathering.
Seeded third in the league following a 5-2 regular season conference record, coach Kenny Doyle's team will open the tournament at 2 p.m. Friday against sixth-seeded Murray State at the Lone Oak Tennis Center. When the teams met in Murray earlier this year, Tech downed the Racers, 5-2. The Golden Eagles have won nine in a row 16 of the last 18 over their Kentucky rival.Tech brings an 8-8 overall mark into the fray while MSU finished the campaign 5-14 overall with a 2-5 OVC record.
The Golden Eagles and Racers met in the semifinals of the 2010 OVC Championship, where TTU advanced with a 4-1 win.
The winner Friday will advance to a semifinal contest Satruday at 2 p.m. against No. 2 seed Austin Peay. The Governors posted a 6-1 worksheet in OVC play including a 5-2 victory over Tech in Clarksville. Top-seeded EKU, which went unbeaten in OVC action at 7-0, could be awaiting in the Sunday's championship bout.
Tech heads to Paducah with four all-OVC players in the lineup, led by first-team selection Josh Girling. Teamates Alex Chen, Justin Kirstein and Vasily Eremeev all earned second-team spots.
Tech last played in the NCAA Tournament in 2006. Head coach Randy Smith's team downed UT Martin and Samford in the OVC Tournament, and moved on to play the Texas Longhorns in Austin. Tech also went to the NCAA Tourney in 2003-04 and 2002-03, winning back-to-back OVC tourney crowns under coach Al Campos. In 2003-04, Tech beat Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Illinois and Jacksonville State, then met the Georgia Bulldogs in the NCAA. The year before that, the Golden Eagles claimed the OVC title with wins over Tennessee State, EKU and Murray State, then battled Vanderbilt in the NCAA.
Tech's first trip to the NCAA field came in 1998-99, also under Randy Smith, with OVC tourney wins against Morehead State, Murray State and Middle Tennessee. That Tech team played at Tennessee in the NCAA tourney.
2011 Ohio Valley Conference Tennis Championship - Paducah, Ky.
FRIDAY, APRIL 15
Match 1 - #4 Jacksonville State vs. #5 Morehead State - 2 p.m
Match 2 - #3 Tennessee Tech vs. #6 Murray State - 2 p.m.
SATURDAY, APRIL 15
Match 3 - #1 Eastern Kentucky vs. Match 1 winner - 2 p.m.
Match 4 - #2 Austin Peay vs. Match 2 winner - 2 p.m.
SUNDAY, APRIL 17
Match 5 - Championship - 2 p.m.
All Times Central