By MARLON SCOTT | Senior Staff Writer

The Govs tennis team took one step closer to an automatic NCAA Tournament bid this season after beating Tennessee Tech in the semifinals of the 2011 Ohio Valley Conference men’s tennis championship in Paducah, Ky. However, the Eastern Kentucky Colonels halted the Govs’ progress and earned their second straight OVC Tournament title. The Govs lost to the Colonels 4- 1 in the championship game of the OVC Tournament Sunday, April 17.

“It was really a battle,” said head coach Malik Tabet. “I’m proud of these guys because they showed up and represented our team in the best way possible. We just came up short in doubles and then again in singles.”

The No. 3 doubles team of freshman Joao Pagan and sophomore John Storie were the only doubles team to win against the Colonels, 8-1. The Colonels also took the No. 1 and No. 2 singles matches.

Govs sophomore Sean Bailey earned the win in the No. 3 singles spot.

But the Colonels sealed the win in a three-set battle between Gov freshman Remi Calleja and Eastern Kentucky’s Parul Verma. Verma won the match 6-3, 4-6, 6-0.

“Experience plays a lot, especially when it’s the last match of the tournament,” Tabet said. “I take my hat off to EKU. They had the experience, they had the toughness and they knew how to handle the tough situations.”

This was the second year in a row the Govs team made the OVC Tournament after failing to do so.

In addition, the team is made up of sophomores and freshmen. The young squad will only continue to become more dangerous over time.

“We’re going to come back next year with some more experience, but the same fire,” Tabet said.

Although that fire did not earn the Govs the championship, it did earn the team several OVC postseason accolades.

Freshman Jasmin Ademovic and sophomores Bailey and Henrique Norbiato were named to the OVC men’s tennis first team. Ademovic was also named the OVC Freshman of the Year.

This marked the first time a Govs player was named Freshman of the Year and the first time in school history three players were named to the All-OVC first team.

Both Ademovic and Norbiato played in the top two singles positions this season.

They both also suffered only one loss in regular season OVC play (5-1). Bailey was the only Gov to go undefeated in OVC play. He played at the No. 3 singles spot.

“It’s nice to have players that show the discipline that you expect from student-athletes, and the results show,” Tabet said. TAS