COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- It was a long, difficult day for Tennessee Tech's Vasily Eremeev. In the end, it was also a very rewarding day for the sophomore from Russia and his Golden Eagle teammates.
Eremeev earned the deciding point as Tennessee Tech edged Austin Peay in a battle between the two unbeaten Ohio Valley Conference men's tennis teams. Tech (8-7/6-0 OVC) took the lead in the conference race with two road matches looming this weekend at Eastern Illinois and SIU Edwardsville. Austin Peay (10-8/5-1 OVC) slipped into a tie for second place heading into the final weekend of the regular season.
The way the match unfurled, Eremeev faced a must-win situation at No. 6 singles and things were looking bleak. He lost the first set, 6-3, to Iago Seffrin, and trailed in the second, 4-1. That's when Eremeev put the pieces together.
"All of a sudden I started to feel the ball better and made my shots," Eremeev said. "In the first set, I was just hitting it and in the second set I was thinking too much. I got it back to 4-3, and I realized what I needed to do to win. All of a sudden everything was working. I was hitting shots and trying not to think too much."
Eremeev won the next three points to capture the second set, 6-4, and grabbed an early lead in the third set.
Meanwhile, everything else on the TTU campus courts was complete except the No. 1 singles match, and it was slowly turning toward the Govs. Eremeev was aware he probably needed his point for the Golden Eagles to win. Seffrin made it 4-3 and Eremeev held serve to make it 5-3. Seffrin also held serve to cut the difference to 5-4, before Eremeev captured the deciding point.
It was the second tough match of the day for Eremeev, who teamed with Artem Tarasov to claim a 9-8 (2) win at No. 2 doubles, part of a sweep of all three doubles events for the Golden Eagles and a 1-0 lead. The duo downed John Storie and Jasmin Ademovic. At No. 1, Syrym Abdukhalikov and Alex Chen defeated Sean Bailey and Dimitar Ristowski, 8-6, while in the No. 3 spot, Alejandro Augusto and Justin Kirstein cruised to an 8-3 win over Seffrin and Michael Hriciste.
Aleksas Tverjonas got a quick start for APSU in singles play, earning a 6-2, 6-1 win over Tarasov at No. 4 to tie the match at 1-1. Augusto answered with a 6-2, 6-2 win at No. 3 singles over Ristowski to put Tech ahead, 2-1. It kept the freshman from Spain unbeaten in OVC play at 6-0.
On the No. 2 court, Ademovic battled to a 6-4, 6-3 win over Chen and once again the match was knotted at 2-2.
Senior Justin Kirstein also kept his OVC singles mark intact at 6-0 with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Storie in the No. 5 slot, setting the stage for the final two points.
On the No. 1 court, Abduhkalikov raced out to a 5-2 lead in the opening set before Bailey worked his way back to tie things and eventually win in a tie-breaker, 7-6 (4). That's when Eremeev began to turn his match around, and went on to win the point and the match. It proved essential, as Bailey completed his comeback with a 6-2 win in the second set.