by Caleb Thomas
The Troy men’s tennis team beat Georgia Southern to advance to the semifinals of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament before losing to rival South Alabama on Friday.
In Peachtree, Georgia, the Trojans won their quarterfinals match of the tournament against the Eagles, 4-2. After they lost the doubles point to Georgia Southern, Troy was staring at a 1-0 deficit. However, the Trojans quickly bounced back, winning the next three singles points to take a commanding lead.
Mario Martinez was locked in a tough battle as the Eagles won the next point to draw within a point of the Trojans. Martinez, who was recently named Sun Belt Freshman of the Year and a Sun Belt Player to Watch, lost the first set in tiebreakers before winning the next 6-4 to force a critical third set.
When Martinez trailed 3-1 in the set, it looked like the match might come down to the sixth court contest, where Francisco Erramuspe was also in the third set of a tightly contested showdown. Martinez, however, had other plans – he clawed back to seal the Trojans’ win, 6-4.
After the exhilarating win over Georgia Southern, Troy prepared to face off against South Alabama the following day. The Jaguars, who were the top seed in the tournament after going 7-1 in conference play, won the doubles point to start the day.
Troy evened the match with a dominant 6-0, 6-3 win by Vito Llinares, but that was the only point they won in the 4-1loss. South Alabama ended up winning every other singles match to clinch its berth in the finals.
While the Jaguars lost to Old Dominion in the tournament championship, Troy’s season is likely over. The NCAA men’s tennis tournament is a 64-team bracket, and the Trojans sit outside the top-64 teams in the country.
However, with Mario Martinez and most of Troy’s team likely to return, the future looks bright for Trojans tennis.