Tennis schedule opens with ranked teams, tough road stretch

Tennis schedule opens with ranked teams, tough road stretch

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COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Tech tennis team opens the spring portion of its schedule Thursday with a 2 p.m. match at No. 20 Tennessee, the first of several ranked opponents that fill a two-month-long road stretch for coach Kenny Doyle's team.

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The first nine dual matches on the schedule are all away from home, with the Golden Eagles playing on their own courts for the first time slated for March 16 with their Ohio Valley Conference opener against Tennessee State.

After facing Tennessee Thursday, the Golden Eagles will meet Oklahoma State on Saturday on the UT courts in Knoxville. The road diet continues with matches at Chattanooga (Jan. 20), No. 60 Georgia State (Jan. 21), Charlotte (Jan. 26), Winthrop (Jan. 27), and Appalachian State (Feb. 3).

Tech's highest-ranked opponent on the docket is No. 11 Mississippi State, which will host the Golden Eagles on Feb. 10. The final match in the road stretch is at UNC Asheville March 3.

Three of Tech's five home contests are next, beginning with TSU on March 16. That is followed by OVC foes Belmont (March 17) and Jacksonville State (March 21). The other home matches bring SIU Edwardsville (April 6) and Eastern Illinois (April 7). The OVC road matches are at Morehead State (March 29), Eastern Kentucky (March 30), Austin Peay (April 13) and Murray State (April 15).

A non-conference match at Lipscomb is also on the slate, April 11.  The OVC Tournament, which will be held in Paducah, Ky., is set for April 19-21.

The Tech lineup includes five returning players and two newcomers who joined the roster this semester.

Headlining the team wil be a pair of decorated players who captured all-OVC recognition a year ago. Syrym Abduhkalikov, a senior from Kazakhstan, earned all-OVC honors while playing in the No. 1 singles and doubles positions last year. Alejandro Augusto, a sophomore from Spain, also earned all-OVC recognition as well as being named the OVC Freshman of the Year. He lined up in the No. 3 singles and doubles spots last year, but will challenge this year for the top spots in the Golden Eagle lineup.

Also back in action are Vasily Eremeev, a junior from Russia, Ezequiel Gils, a sophomore from Uruguay, and Artem Tarasov, a sophomore from Uzbekistan.

Newcomers joining the lineup are Spain's Alvaro Cintas and Othon Lima from Brazil.

Doyle's team posted a perfect 8-0 record last season in OVC action to win the league's regular season championship. The Golden Eagles won a semifinal match before falling in the OVC Tourney championship match. Tech turned around the season with a 10-match winning streak after starting with a 1-7 record in non-conference action.