Jan. 22, 2012
BY AMANDA PRUITT
The Tennessee Volunteers earned their first top-20 win of the season Sunday, beating No. 15 Georgia Tech 5-2 at Goodfriend Tennis Center.
Against their first ranked opponent of the season, the 13th-ranked Vols (2-1) came out firing from the start in doubles and carried the momentum into singles. Tennessee took two matches in straight sets and two Vols rallied in three-setters to seal the victory.
Freshman and Knoxville native Brandon Fickey clinched the match at 4-0 with a 6-4, 7-6 (0) win on court 2 against Juan Melian before the remaining matches were played out.
With four freshmen again on court for Tennessee on Sunday, the learning curve continued for the young Vols, but the overall team performance was exactly what head coach Sam Winterbotham was looking for: Tennessee fought to win on all six courts.
"We put it out there, were willing to step up, and when it was time to step up, go for our shots and have a winning mentality," Winterbotham said. "That's what they did. As we go forward here, we just finished our third dual match for a bunch of freshmen. They're still learning, but if they put in that kind of effort, if they're that tough, we've got a chance."
After the Vols clinched the doubles point with quick wins on courts 2 and 3, singles play promised to be a very close contest. While Tennessee was starting three freshmen in the top three of the lineup, Georgia Tech had two new players on courts 5 and 6.
Singles play was close from the start, but junior Edward Jones eventually provided the Vols' second point of the match. The team's only returning starter from a year ago won the first set in a tiebreaker then rolled to a 7-6, 6-1 win over Vikram Hundal on court 5.
Redshirt freshman Hunter Reese had lost his first two dual matches to start his career, but he collected his first win Sunday. After dropping the first set, he came back to win 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 over Juan Spir on court 3 to give the Vols a 3-0 lead.
Fickey continued to find ways to win on court 2. In a long two-set match, Fickey shut out Melian in the second-set tiebreaker to earn a 6-4, 7-6 (0) victory to clinch the team win at 4-0.
Fickey is now 3-0 to start his dual match career.
"You're playing for the team," Fickey said. "You've got to do what you've got to do to win. I wanted the ball. I wanted to win. I wouldn't rather have it in anyone else's hands when it comes to that."
After Fickey clinched the match, sophomore Jarryd Chaplin followed on court 4 with a comeback win. He faced two match points in the second set, but with the crowd behind him, Chaplin raced ahead for a 4-6, 7-6 (1), 6-3 win against Dusan Miljevic, giving the Vols a 5-0 lead.
The two remaining courts went down to third-set tiebreakers, both scores going in Georgia Tech's favor.
Junior Taylor Patrick, who gave the Vols' early momentum with a quick first set, lost 1-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3) on court 6 to Eduardo Segura.
Freshman Mikelis Libietis faced the first major tests of his young career in singles and doubles at the top of the lineup. In doubles, he and Hunter Reese had lost 8-7 (5) in a tiebreaker to second-ranked Kevin King and Spir. A few minutes later, Libietis returned to court 1 in singles to face King, ranked ninth nationally.
Libietis had two chances to serve out the match in the third set but eventually lost 7-6 (4), 3-6, 7-6 (5) to the lefty King in his first contest against a top-10 opponent in college.
The Vols return to court at home Sunday for the ITA Kick-Off Weekend, which brings in a bevy of good teams. Tennessee plays Michigan State on Sunday with Mississippi and Oklahoma facing in the other match. The winner of the two-day tournament gains entry to the ITA National Team Indoor Championships.
Tennessee 5, Georgia Tech 2
1. #9 Kevin King (GT) def. #125 Mikelis Libietis (UT) 7-6, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5)
2. Brandon Fickey (UT) def. Juan Melian (GT) 6-4, 7-6 (7-0)
3. #117 Hunter Reese (UT) def. Juan Spir (GT) 4-6, 6-2, 6-4
4. Jarryd Chaplin (UT) def. Dusan Miljevic (GT) 4-6, 7-6 (7-1), 6-3
5. Edward Jones (UT) def. Vikram Hundal (GT) 7-6, 6-1
6. Eduardo Segura (GT) def. Taylor Patrick (UT) 1-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3)
1. #2 Kevin King/Juan Spir (GT) def. #33 Mikelis Libietis/Hunter Reese (UT) 8-7 (7-5)
2. Edward Jones/Brandon Fickey (UT) def. Vikram Hundal/Juan Melian (GT) 8-2
3. Jarryd Chaplin/Peter Nagovnak (UT) def. Dusan Miljevic/Eduardo Segura (GT) 8-3
Order of finish: Doubles (3,2,1); Singles (5,3,2,4,6,1)