By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The top-seeded Tennessee Tech tennis team rallied during singles play, fighting back from an early doubles setback for a 4-1 win over Belmont in the OVC Tournament semifinals. With the win, the Golden Eagles stamp their ticket to Sunday's championship match at the Centennial Sportsplex, the second-straight appearance for Tech following last year's 4-3 win against Eastern Kentucky for the program's seventh tournament title. TTU will await the winner of the evening's second semifinal between No. 2 Eastern Kentucky and No. 3 Jacksonville State.
Tech (12-6) found itself in a rare deficit early in the semifinals clash, as the Golden Eagles dropped the doubles point for the first time in over a month to fall behind 1-0. In fact, TTU had captured the doubles point in all six OVC matches this season, but the Bruins (10-14) bested Tech in two of the three tandem matchups.
Stephen Goldman and Zak Kahn took down Alberto Esteban and Guillermo Nicolas, 6-3, out of the No. 2 spot, while Bruno Russo and Vincent Sterkens knocked off Marc Mila and Jorge Alfonzo, 6-2, in the No. 3 slot. The No. 1 battle pitting Belmont's Cedric Dujacquier and Hendrik Inno against Tech's Eduardo Mena and Marcos Bernardes did not finish with the score deadlocked at 5-5.
Despite the precarious position, the Golden Eagles flexed their muscles during singles play, seizing all four affairs that finished. Two-time OVC Player of the Year, No. 60 Eduardo Mena breezed in his No. 1 matchup with Josiah Collins, securing the top tilt in straight sets with a 6-3, 6-2 victory.
The other three completed battles possessed a little more drama, but in the end, a trio of Golden Eagles soared to three-set nods to officially clinch the match. Junior Marcos Bernardes toppled Hendrik Inno, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, out of the No. 2 spot, while senior Alberto Esteban edged Vincent Sterkens, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 in the No. 3 slot and sophomore Guillermo Nicolas slipped past Zak Khan, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 out of the No. 4 position.
With the match in hand, the final two singles tilts went unfinished, however the Golden Eagles led in each of them. Jorge Alfonzo won the first set, 6-3, and was on top 1-0 in the second against Stephen Goldman in the No. 5 spot, while Marc Mila was up 5-2 in the first set against Bruno Russo in the No. 6 slot.
The Golden Eagles will be searching for their eighth OVC Tournament title and second in a row Sunday afternoon. The championship is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. CT.
Photo by Thomas Corhern