CHARLESTON, S.C. - 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 and senior Philip Kloc, responded with an 8-5 win in the No. 1 match, while seniors Alain Humblet and Alex Markov clinched the doubles point with an 8-5 win at No. 2.
In singles, redshirt junior Steve Karendal 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 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 a 2-0 lead in the final set, but he saw his advantage evaporate when Elon took a 3-2 edge. With ASU down 4-5, Elon had three match points to eliminate the Mountaineers, but Saltsgaver hung in to tie the match, 5-5.
Over at No. 2, Kloc came back from a 0-2 shortfall in the decisive set to take a 5-3 lead. In the end, an Elon injury terminated the match, handing Kloc a 6-2, 6-7(10-12), 5-3 win by retirement, equalizing the team score at 3-3.
In the final match on the courts, Saltsgaver fed off the spectators and closed out three straight games for a 3-6, 7-5, 7-5 victory to punch Appalachian's ticket to the semifinal.
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.