Jan. 13, 2013
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- With the team tennis season starting in less than a week, Tennessee sophomore Hunter Reese got the momentum and matchplay he needed for the new year.
Reese raced through two more matches in straight sets Sunday to capture his first collegiate singles title at the Wake Forest Spring Invitational.
The UT sophomore faced a pair of Wake Forest players in the final two rounds, beating Morgan Mays 6-1, 6-2 in the semifinals and then defeating Sam Bloom by the same score in the title match.
"Hunter played very solid tennis, and he also competed really well," Tennessee head coach Sam Winterbotham said. "His energy was very positive. I can't think a time the whole weekend he really turned off. That concentration level was the reason we was playing as well as he was.
"The biggest thing I got from h performance is that he's continuing to use what he's practicing. when you see that as a coach, it makes you very happy. i'm proud of him for that."
Reese improved his season record to 15-3 and will be riding a seven-match winning streak heading into the Vols' team season opener Thursday against Tennessee Tech at 3 p.m.
RETURN TO COMPETITION
Reese had enjoyed a strong start to his fall season, including reaching his first singles final at the Baylor HEB Invitational, but his last month of competition was derailed when he missed the last few tournaments with injury. The weekend tournament at Wake Forest signaled a return to competition, something Reese hadn't experienced outside of practice since early October.
"I feel a lot better now than I did a week ago," Reese said. "I was maybe a little nervous. How was I going to handle playing again? But I got some really good matches this weekend. Now with the season coming up, I know what's going to happen. Nothing's going to be a surprise."
One of three nationally ranked players in the tournament field, Reese entered the weekend ranked No. 40 and was the top seed. He dropped just one set in five matches against regional foes, beating four Wake Forest players along the way.
"I knew I'd be seeded high coming in, maybe one of the top two or three seeds, but I tried not to focus on that," Reese said. "The results didn't matter to me. I just wanted to go out and play and get some matches under my belt. By my third match, i was playing really good tennis."
SEASON STARTS THURSDAY
The Wake Forest Spring Invitational served as a final competition warmup for Reese, senior Taylor Patrick and freshman Sebastian Yllera, while the rest of the team trained over the weekend in Knoxville. The Vols are returning all six singles starters from last season and have added three newcomers to a lineup that finished 20th nationally in 2012.
Winterbotham said continual improvement is the key for the Vols now.
"We're starting the season ranked 19th, but we have higher goals than that," Winterbotham said. "We've worked hard every day since we've been back. It's clear all the guys have had that in mind. They've maintained their fitness and training levels, so we can hit the ground running.
"We just need to keep improving and hopefully by the end of it, we're a very good team."
Wake Forest Spring Invitational
Main Draw Singles
Hunter Reese (1), UT, def. Morgan Mays, WF, 6-1, 6-2
Reese (1), def. Sam Bloom, WF, 6-1, 6-2
Sebastian Yllera, UT, def. Tobi Menhofer, Kennesaw St., 3-6, 4-0 ret
Amogh Prabhakar (2), WF, def. Yllera, UT, 6-2, 6-2
Jon Ho, William & Mary, def. Taylor Patrick, UT, 6-3, 7-6 (4)
Reese/Yllera (2), UT, def. Chaffee/Juggins, William & Mary, 8-4