BOONE, N.C. - After a rough start to the season, the Mountaineers are gaining momentum, as Appalachian State University men's tennis pulled off a 5-1 defeat of East Carolina at Deer Valley Racquet Club on Saturday. With their second-straight victory the Apps level off to 2-2 on the year, both wins coming at home, while East Carolina slips to 7-3.
In the battle for the doubles point, Appalachian played a non-traditional lineup, opting to split its regionally-ranked senior pair of Philip Kloc and Alain Humblet among the top two spots. ECU took the early advantage in the doubles portion, breaking twice for an 8-3 win at No. 3.
At No. 1 doubles, Appalachian's duo of Kloc and Sebastien King found themselves evenly matched against their Pirate foes, as the teams held serve through ten games. With the match deadlocked at 5-5, the Mountaineers scored a break for the 6-5 advantage and serve; ASU would win 8-6.
With the doubles point on the line, ASU's No. 2 team of Humblet and Alex Markov broke in the seventh game to take a 4-3 lead and held serve for eventual 8-6 victory, clinching a 1-0 lead for the Mountaineers.
In singles, Kloc dominated his match at No. 2, breaking in the second game of the match. Leading 4-1, he broke serve again and easily took the first. In the second set, Kloc remained in the driver's seat, jumping out to a 3-0 lead and cruising to the 6-1, 6-1 win.
At No. 3, Humblet looked overpowering after breaking serve in the first game, but his ECU opponent held tough. The senior managed to hold serve and win the set, before picking up two breaks and a 3-0 lead to start the second. Humblet went on to win 6-4, 6-2, giving the Mountaineers a 3-0 lead, one point from clinching the match.
Appalachian's Markov and ECU's Joran Vliegen, ranked No. 105 in the nation, engaged in a fierce duel at No. 1 singles. With Vliegen taking first serve, Markov broke serve in the fourth game to take a 2-1 advantage. In the next game, Vliegen broke back, leveling the match at 2-2. When Markov took another break to go up 4-3, Vliegen responded with a break to tie the set, 4-4. The first set came down to a back-and-forth tiebreaker in which Markov finally triumphed, 7-6 (9-7).
The second set played equally close, as Markov and Vliegen alternated games again. This time, both held serve to load the scoreboard, 6-6. In the tiebreaker, Vliegen fought off two match points to win the tiebreaker and set with four straight points, 7-6 (8-6).
Meanwhile, the other Mountaineers managed less-dramatic outcomes. At No. 4 singles, King picked up a pair of breaks in the first set and broke open the second set. The sophomore kept the pressure on and completed the 6-2, 6-2 win to clinch Appalachian's fourth point and the overall victory.
As the top individuals continued their lengthy match, senior Steve Karendal took the court at No. 5 singles. Though he needed a late break to take the first set, the Mountaineer opened up a 4-0 lead in the second, finishing his Pirate opponent, 7-5, 6-2.
As the last players on the court, Markov and Vliegen kept their swordfight interesting. With the decisive set tied 4-4, the combatants broke service on each of the last four games, knotting the set, 6-6. In the final tiebreaker, Vliegen opened up a 5-1 advantage, and though Markov battled back, ECU finally got on the scoreboard with the 6-7 (7), 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5) win.
Due to time and court space constraints, in addition to ASU having already clinched the match, the No. 6 singles match was not conducted.
The Mountaineers return to action on Thursday when they travel to take on Gardner-Webb at 2 p.m. Appalachian then travels to Johnson City for a showdown with ETSU on Saturday before returning to Boone to host Belmont at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 26.