Eastern men’s tennis team ready for OVC tournament

Vince Lovergine, Men's Tennis Reporter

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The Eastern men’s tennis team heads to Nashville Friday for its quest for the Ohio Valley Conference championship.

Daniel Hernandez returns a hit with a backhand hit of his own in his singles match during Eastern’s 6-1 loss to Jacksonville State March 22 at the Darling Courts.

Dillan Schorfheide
Daniel Hernandez returns a hit with a backhand hit of his own in his singles match during Eastern’s 6-1 loss to Jacksonville State March 22 at the Darling Courts.

The Panthers want to be on the other side of the spectrum this time around against No. 4 seed Austin Peay, a team Eastern lost to in the last match of the spring season 4-0.

Eastern did face Austin Peay in the tournament back in 2014 where the Panthers suffered a 4-3 loss in the first round of play.

It was a season the Governors found some difficulty cracking the win column standing at 6-14, just ahead of Tennessee State at 5-11.

A bright spot for the Panthers has been the wins they’ve racked up this season. Eastern compiled 13 wins, which is the most in conference, just ahead of Belmont with 12.

If Eastern were to advance Friday, they would face the best team in the conference, Tennessee Tech, in the semifinals Saturday.

But, the Golden Eagles have won the last three OVC championships.

This Eastern team should be very confident going in, seeing the most wins the program has seen since 2008 under first-year interim director of tennis Chris Tolson.

A big part in the quick resolution is the Panthers players saying the culture has changed, and Tolson taught the team how to win.

For each team, it will be a road match, but Eastern has won nine matches on the road, the most since 2009 when the team had six.

Junior Freddie O’Brien earned two OVC Player of the Week awards, leading Eastern with 15 wins at No. 1 singles.

Improvement and consistency were something the team wanted to accomplish more this spring season, and they did just that.

Sophomore Logan Charbonneau raised his win total form last year by eight, junior Braden Davis, despite an injury, notched three wins.

Junior Gage Kingsmith finished with 4 wins, and O’Brien also saw an increase in wins, having four more than last season.

Even though Charbonneau and O’Brien didn’t tag team much last season, the tandem took off this year going from two wins to 15.

Reeling back to the tournament, Charbonneau knows one thing the team needs to do.

“It’s all a matter of keeping focus,” he said. “Losing intensity for 5-10 minutes at this level can hurt any team.”

For Davis, there will be no limitations after his injury earlier in the season, and he hopes he can help the team in any way.

“I’m completely healthy and fully prepared to compete my hardest if the coaches decide to give me a shot to prove myself and put me in the lineup,” he said.

Sophomore Mike Jansen was the other Panther bothered by an injury through the season, and he is ready to get things rolling.

“I was able to practice once, which was a great improvement compared to last weeks, but we all made sure we are ready for this weekend,” Jansen said. “We are focused and will push to get everything out of the weekend. Most importantly we will have a great time competing together one more time this season.”

Vince Lovergine can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]