COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Justin Kirstein
had plenty of chances to just give up. Trailing 5-2 in the third set and suffering from leg cramps, the Tennessee Tech freshman kept reminding himself that he didn’t want to let down his teammates.
So, he saved five match points and fought all the way back to win his No. 4 singles point and break a tie, giving the Golden Eagle men’s tennis team a 4-3 non-conference victory over Appalachian State Sunday afternoon on the Tech campus.
“I just can’t say enough about Justin, and the way he fought back,” said first-year Golden Eagle coach Dan Silverstein
, whose team has now won five of its last six matches. “He was just determined not to lose.
“Really, I can’t say enough about Justin and Dean (O’Brien) and Oscar (Pachon) and Alex (Chen),” Silverstein added. “They fought and won this match for their teammates.”
After Appalachian State took a 1-0 lead with the doubles point, the Golden Eagles (6-5/2-0 OVC) got singles wins at the top four spots to beat Appalachian State (10-6) for the first time.
“Appy State took it to us in doubles, but we responded in singles,” Silverstein said. “This was a great team win, and it gives us momentum heading to Jacksonville State next Saturday.”
The Mountaineers got a win at No. 1 doubles as Bobby Lake and Lee Floyd defeated O’Brien and Josh Girling
, 8-3. The visitors also won at No. 2 when Peter Jacobs and Trent Constance handed Chen and Mario Gutierrez
an 8-5 loss.
Tech won at No. 3 doubles, with Kirstein and Pachon claiming an 8-4 victory over Philip Kloc and Britton Webb.
Down 1-0, the Golden Eagles went to work with an altered lineup, as Pachon, Kirstein and Gutierrez moved up a spot each and James Crawford
stepped into the No. 6 slot.
O’Brien improved to 10-1 this spring with a 6-4, 6-3, straight set win over Lake in the top spot. At No. 2, Chen came back after losing the first set to beat Jacobs, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3. It was Chen’s fifth win in the last six tries.
Pachon won his eighth in a row and improved to 8-3, despite moving up to No. 3, where he claimed a 7-6 (7-4), 6-0 win from Constance to give the Golden Eagles their third point.
Meanwhile, the Mountaineers earned wins at No. 5 and No. 6 singles, making it a 3-3 match and setting the stage for Kirstein’s comeback. At No. 5, Kloc beat Gutierrez, 6-3, 6-3, and at No. 6, it was a 6-3, 6-4 win for Alain Humblet over Crawford.
Kirstein and Floyd split their first two sets. The visitor took the first set, 6-4, before Kirstein answered with a 6-1 win in the second.
Floyd raced out to a 5-2 lead in the third, and the match appeared headed to Appy State, but Kirstein had other plans. The marketing major from South Africa won five consecutive games for a 7-5 win and the match victory.
“We need to have a good week of practice and get ourselves ready to face a very good Jacksonville State team,” Silverstein said.
Tech plays at JSU Saturday, then visits Austin Peay on Tuesday, March 31. The next home contest for the men’s team is April 1 against Southern Illinois.