Johnson City, Tenn. (May 11, 2002) — The East Tennessee State men's tennis team fought hard, but fell to No. 13 Auburn, 4-2, as their match came down to the wire in the first round of the NCAA Men's Tennis Tournament from the Luther Young Tennis Complex in Auburn, Ala.
Auburn took the doubles point after winning two of the three matches. The first doubles match completed was an 8-3 victory for Auburn's Andrew Colombo and Mark Kovacs at No. 2 over the ETSU team of junior Pablo Sahagun (Cuernavaca, Mexico) and sophomore Alejandro Salazar (Areqiupa, Peru). The Buccaneers took the next match as sophomores Diego Iglesias (Mar del Plata, Argentina) and Moises Serrano (Bucaramanga, Colombia) were victorious at No. 3 over the Auburn duo of Andre Boz and Estevam Strecker. The Tigers clinched the point when Rameez Junaid and Tiago Ruffoni won the match at No. 1 singles over the ETSU team of senior Roberto Fernandez (Cuernavaca, Mexico) and junior Marcos Pavlovich (Otamendi, Argentina).
Auburn won the first singles point as Strecker of the Tigers defeated Salazar of the Buccaneers in straight sets, 6-1, 6-1 at No. 5.
East Tennessee State then roared back, taking the next two matches to tie the score, 2-2. ETSU's Iglesias was victorious in his match at No. 4, 6-4, 6-4 over Auburn's Kovacs. Serrano of the Buccaneers then kept up his hot play of late, winning his fifth match in a row by defeating Boz of the Tigers in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3.
The Tigers regained the lead, 3-2, when No. 50-ranked Ruffoni defeated Sahagun of ETSU, 7-5, 6-3, at No. 3 singles.
The pressure in the match then hit its peak as either team could win the match, depending on the outcome of the final two singles matches, each of which went to three sets. Auburn's Junaid clinched the match victory for the Tigers by defeating ETSU's Pavlovich, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, at No. 1. The match at No. 2 between Fernandez of the Buccaneers and Colombo of the Tigers was not completed. Each player had won a set and the third set was tied 4-4.
"I am real proud of our guys," said ETSU head coach Dave Mullins following the match. "We don't get the opportunity to play a top-level team like an Auburn day in and day out. And I felt like our guys would give it an effort because they are so excited to be here at the NCAA tournament. I knew they would give a great effort, but I didn't know if we'd have enough guns when all the chips were on the line. I can't ask for a greater effort from my guys. Auburn just played well right down at the end when they had to. And obviously they are used to this kind of match. Our guys didn't buckle under pressure, but it is a matter of getting worn down by a really good team."
The Buccaneers close a successful 2001-02 season with a 17-8 record. Auburn continues on to face Mississippi State, who earlier Saturday defeated South Alabama, Sunday at 1 p.m.