By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The calendar may say January, but for the Tennessee Tech tennis team, spring has certainly arrived.
Smack dab in the middle of a run of success that rivals any in OVC history, the Golden Eagles embark on another campaign with a season-opening trip to Starkville, Miss., where Kenny Doyle's squad will clash with Mississippi State on back-to-back days. Tech officially unwraps the year on Saturday, Jan. 11 with a 4 p.m. CT first serve against the Bulldogs, before a rematch with the SEC foe is on the books for Sunday at 11 a.m.
Video for both contests is available. Click here to watch.
A look at Tech
The Golden Eagles head into the 2020 spring season having seized four straight Ohio Valley Conference Tournament titles as well as seven regular-season crowns over the last nine years. The 2019 version of the purple and gold checked each championship column with a 4-1 conference slate en route to the regular-season title, before rolling off back-to-back wins in the OVC Tournament to secure the rare four-peat. With Tech's four consecutive tournament championships, the Golden Eagles became the first four-peat winner since Middle Tennessee claimed eight straight titles in the early to late 90s. TTU is the only team out of the current six league members that has ever won four championships in a row.
Tech brings back virtually last year's entire championship-winning roster, highlighted by a quartet of Golden Eagles that secured All-OVC hardware. Carlos Vicente heads into his sophomore season fresh off a rookie campaign that saw the Valencia, Spain native capture the OVC Freshman of the Year honor to go along with a first-team accolade as well. Fellow sophomore Rafael Tosetto joined Vicente in the All-OVC first-team department, while the Golden Eagles also welcome back a pair of All-OVC second teamers in sophomore Elias Grubert and junior Riku Kubota.
Grubet marches into the spring campaign fresh off a stellar fall showing that featured a team-best 9-4 singles record during tournament action in the autumn months. Tosetto wrapped up the 2019 fall slate with a 7-5 ledger, while Kubota notched a 6-5 mark and sophomore Lucca Silva went a perfect 4-0. Senior Fanis Kontopoulos posted a 3-1 record to round out TTU's bunch with winning singles records in the fall.
A look at Mississippi State
Before hosting Tech, the Bulldogs will open their spring season with a matchup against Samford, set for Saturday at noon CT. A perennial power in the collegiate tennis landscape, MSU is coming off another impressive spring season after posting a 24-4 overall record and an 11-1 SEC mark in 2019. The Bulldogs claimed their second-straight SEC Tournament championship with a 4-1 win over Tennessee in the final, before making it to the NCAA Tournament Round of 16, where the club ultimately bowed out to TCU.
Mississippi State brings back two of six in its primary singles rotation, with No. 2 Giovanni Oradini and No. 6 Florian Broska still in the mix in 2020. Oradini posted a 13-9 record out the No. 2 slot, while Broska secured a 10-7 mark out of the No. 6 position.
The Bulldogs lead the all-time series, 3-1, over Tech. The two clubs most recently met in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament, a 4-0 MSU nod in Starkville.
Photo by Tony Marable