KSU’s men’s tennis team pulled off a thrilling, 4-3, comeback win last Sunday over Lipscomb as freshman Alexander Pena held on in a second set tie-break to earn the deciding point for the Owls.
“Today was probably one of the most exciting matches I’ve ever coached,” said head coach T.J. Greggs. “It just went about as close as possible. Lipscomb is a very solid team and I couldn’t be more happy.”
After putting in a solid effort but ultimately losing the doubles point, Golkalp Ozdemir got the Owls back on track, 1-1, after he sent Lipscomb’s No.4 singles player, Stuart Tierney to the trainer, winning 7-5, 3-0. Ozdemir fought hard to tame the monster forehand of Tierney, who early on, had several flashy winners but eventually started to misfire before tiring out his shoulder and calling for the trainer.
The relief would be short lived for the Owls as the Bison quickly regained the lead, going up 3-1 after wins over Owls No.1 Alex Toliver and No.3 Simon Janik. Janik had to play a one-handed backhand because of a broken finger on his left hand.
Janik’s voice was heard around the tennis center as he yelled to his teammates to encourage them. After losing his match, Janik immediately went to cheer on his teammates, lending support to freshman Louis Theodor, who had just lost the second set of his No.2 singles match.
“Simon is trying his best to fight through the injury, I gave him the option to not play today but he texted me at about midnight last night and said I want to play tomorrow,” said Greggs. “We’ve got four starters who are freshmen and the Turks (Kubin and Ozdemir) are quieter guys…So Simon and Browder have been leading, getting loud in practice, preparing the freshmen for the atmosphere of conference play.”
Down 3-1, the Owls needed all three of their remaining singles players to win their matches. Junior Gianni Kubin did just that, winning his No.5 singles match 6-2, 6-2, over senior Colby Shaw. The Owls would also need wins from the two freshmen, No.6 Pena and No.2 Louis Theodor
Leveled at one set apiece, Theodor quickly raced out to a 4-0 lead over Bison No.2 singles player David Salazar, whose frustration could be heard around the tennis center. Theodor was preparing to serve with a 4-0, 30-15 lead when a point violation went to Bison No.5 Colby Shaw who had just lost to Kubin. Since Shaw had already lost his match the penalty point rolled over to Salazar, giving Theodor a 4-0, 40-15 lead. Salazar somehow remained calm when Theodor hit a serve that dribbled over the net for a let cord service ace to put Theodor up 5-0.
Despite nearly leveling the set at 5-5, Theodor was able to hang on to win 6-3, 2-6, 6-4. With the two schools tied at 3-3, players gathered around to see the conclusion of the No.6 singles match between Pena and Miguel Cortez. Pena had won the first set 6-2 and was serving for the match at 6-5 when Cortez broke to force a tie-break. Pena dashed the hopes of the Bison, winning six of the first seven points in the breaker, and eventually sealing the deal for the Owls with a 6-2, 7-6 (2) win.