With an impending upset looking almost certain, Appalachian State University men's tennis rallied to defeat Elon, 4-3, in the quarterfinals of the 2012 Southern Conference Championship at College of Charleston Tennis Center on Friday. With the win, the third-seeded Mountaineers (15-6-1) advance to face No. 2 Samford (16-4) on Saturday. The match
began ominously, as the Phoenix captured the No. 3 doubles match, 8-1. Appalachian's top duo, sophomore Sebastien King (Montreal, Quebec/George Vanier) and senior Philip Kloc (Melbourne, Australia/Mentone Grammar), responded with an 8-5 win in the No. 1 match, while seniors Alain Humblet (Montreal, Quebec/DE Mortagne) and Alex Markov (Pernik, Bulgaria/Hawai'i Pacific) clinched the doubles point with an 8-5 win at No. 2.
In singles, redshirt junior Steve Karendal (Kernersville, N.C./Lees-McRae) cruised to Appalachian's only two-set victory. The Mountaineer fell behind 0-2 in the second set before winning five straight games en route to his 6-2, 6-3 win, putting the Apps in front, 2-0.
Elsewhere, Elon made a statement by winning the first set on four of the other five courts. At No. 3, Humblet struggled in the opening set but recovered to win the second before Elon closed out a 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 Phoenix win. Moments later, Elon's No. 1 closed out a second-set tiebreaker to take a 7-5, 7-6(7-4) win, equalizing the team score at two points each.
Suspense grew as Kloc, playing in the No. 2 match, was unable to close out his match in a second-set tiebreaker. In a race to seven, the players made it to 10-12 before Elon was finally able to earn the necessary two-point edge to win the set. On court six, Appalachian State's Matt Saltsgaver (Winter Park, Fla./Winter Park) trailed 2-5 in the second set and was a few points from dropping the match until the App won five straight games to extend the match to a decisive set.
In the No. 4 match, King bounced back from a dropped first set to level the match, but a late broken serve proved fatal, as Elon finished the match on top, 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 to put the Phoenix one match from advancing in the tournament. Needing to win both remaining matches, Appalachian saw its championship hopes threatened. Back at No. 6, Saltsgaver managed the pressure by stealing the 2-0 lead in the final set, but he saw his lead evaporate when Elon took a 3-2. With ASU down 4-5, Elon had three match points to eliminate the Mountaineers, but Saltsgaver hung in the match to tie 5-5. The sophomore fed off the spectators and closed out three straight games for a 3-6, 7-5, 7-5 victory.
In the final match on the courts, Kloc came back from a 0-2 shortfall in the decisive set to take a 5-3 lead. In the end, an Elon injury ended the match, handing Kloc a 6-2, 6-7(10-12), 5-3 win by retirement and punching Appalachian's ticket to the semifinals.
With the victory, the Apps have reached the 15-win mark for the third time in four years, tying the program's most wins in the 12-season tenure of head coach Bob Lake.
Appalachian State advances to the SoCon Tournament semifinals for the first time since 2008; the Mountaineers have made the penultimate round on four prior occasions but have never played in the championship match. ASU's opponent, Samford, knocked out the Apps, 2-4, in last year's quarterfinals.
Saturday's semifinal match begins at 10:30 a.m. at the College of Charleston Tennis Center.
Appalachian Women's Tennis Knocked Off by Furman
After tying the program's most wins in the 14-year tenure of head coach Colin Crothers, Appalachian State University women's tennis ended its season with a 2012 Southern Conference Tournament quarterfinal loss to Furman, 0-4, at the O. Perry Earle, Jr. Tennis Center & Donald C. Bunch Courts on the campus of The Citadel on Friday.
The Mountaineers (13-12) end the year matching ASU's win total from 2006 (13-8), notching the most total victories in a season since Crothers took the helm in 1999.
In doubles action, Furman's No. 1 pair jumped off to a fast start and though ASU juniors Ellie Linsell (Southampton, England/Cheam) and Jennifer Ansari (Greensboro, N.C./Walter Hines Page) were able to break FU's serve once, the Paladins closed out an 8-2 match.
Furman then clinched the doubles point with an 8-0 shutout at No. 3.
In singles, the Mountaineers failed to gain any momentum in their matches. Furman took the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 matches, while Appalachian was only able to collect three games in the three matches.
At No. 5 singles, ASU's Kim-Lea Dinh (Maisons-Alfort, France/Lycee Eugene Delacroix) took an early lead against her opponent, but Furman clinched the team match before she was able to make a move.
No. 3-seed Furman advances to face No. 2 College of Charleston in Saturday's semifinal round.
Photo Courtesy: Matt Saltsgaver, ASU Athletics