Feb. 9, 2014
BY ROBBY VERONESI
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- After earning a huge top-25 victory over No. 13 Duke on Friday, the No. 14 Tennessee Volunteers (9-1) had just a day to bounce back and prepare for No. 19 Wake Forest (6-2) Sunday afternoon.
UT came out of the gate with the same high energy level and Mikelis Libietis won his first match since Jan. 25, and his 12th match this season, helping the Vols sweep the ACC weekend, defeating the Demon Deacons, 4-1, at the Goodfriend Indoor Tennis Center.
"I'd put that one down as our best performance of the season," said head coach Sam Winterbotham. "It was a real challenge to come up and get yourself emotionally ready to play a good team after a high on Friday."
The Vols first earned the doubles point, thanks in part to the No. 1 pair of Hunter Reese and Libietis. The duo on court one earned a 6-3 win over the No. 30 duo of Adam Lee and Pedro Dumont. The win was the 20th for the UT pair and their 57th overall, good for fourth place in the Tennessee record books.
Court three clinched the point after the pair of Markus Kerner and Andrew Dromsky defeated Aws Laaribi and Anthony Delcore by a similar 6-3 score. The No. 3 duo for the Vols continue to play at a hot level, upping their record together this spring to 9-0.
From there, the singles matches started with a similar high level of competitiveness. The Vols took five out of the potential six first sets.
For Libietis, a slump of four matches without a win (including three straight losses) came to an emphatic halt. The No. 34 junior out of Priekuli, Latvia, defeated No. 20 Romain Bogaerts, 6-4, 6-5 (8-6). The win was also the first by a Vol on courts one, two or three this weekend.
Libietis won the second set by clinching the fourth tiebreaker of the match between the two teams. After going back and forth during the first 12 points, Libietis pulled ahead in the final two points, ending the match with a massive slam, followed a loud, enthusiastic yell towards the fans in attendance.
"I didn't play well for a couple of weeks," said Libietis. "I worked really hard this week trying to get confident. Coming into this match, I needed one match to get back into it and I think this was the match."
Bogaerts, a transfer from Mississippi State, certainly was no stranger to Libietis. The top players on their respective teams played two unfinished matches last season, both in Starkville and in the round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament. Both matches went into three sets before Tennessee clinched the match, 4-2, both times.
"I knew what was coming when I got into this match," said Libietis. "I served really well for the first set and a half, but it was a good performance. I think I competed really well and I am happy for the win."
Tennessee's first singles point came on court five, where a pair of transfers squared off. Current Vol and former Georgia Southern Eagle Dromsky swept another MSU transfer, Dumont, the second of two MSU transfers, 6-3, 6-4. The Martinez, Ga., native improved to 6-1 in singles play this spring
The other point during singles play came at the other end of the tennis center on court six. Dromsky's doubles partner, Kerner, continued to roll through singles play, earning a 6-1, 6-2 win over last-minute change Jaya Billa.
Wake Forest managed to cut the deficit to 3-1 after Jon Ho defeated Brandon Fickey, 6-4, 6-5 (8-6), on court three, but that would be the closest the team from Winston-Salem, N.C., would come to the Vols.
Paired with the win against Duke, the Big Orange now has won two matches against the ITA top-20. The Big Orange will now head to Houston, Texas, where they will compete in the 2014 ITA National Indoor Championships, hosted by Texas A&M, Friday to Monday.
"We've put the work in," said Winterbotham. "These guys have been working really hard. As a coaching staff going into a big tournament, it's not like we have to clamber to get them ready. They need to now rest emotionally (and) physically.
"They know that they've put the effort in to be able to handle whatever's coming."
#14 Tennessee 4, #19 Wake Forest 1
1. #34 Mikelis Libietis (UT) def. #20 Romain Bogaerts (WF) 6-4, 6-5 (8-6)
2. #16 Hunter Reese (UT) vs. #59 Adam Lee (WF) 6-5 (7-5), 4-3, unfinished
3. Jon Ho (WF) def. Brandon Fickey (UT) 6-4, 6-5 (8-6)
4. Jarryd Chaplin (UT) vs. Maksim Kan (WF) 6-2, 5-6 (3-7), 1-2, unfinished
5. Andrew Dromsky (UT) def. Pedro Dumont (WF) 6-3, 6-4
6. Markus Kerner (UT) def. Jaya Billa (WF) 6-1, 6-2
1. #1 Mikelis Libietis/Hunter Reese (UT) def. #30 Adam Lee/Pedro Dumont (WF) 6-3
2. #28 Jarryd Chaplin/Brandon Fickey (UT) vs. Maksim Kan/Romain Bogaerts (WF) 4-4, unfinished
3. Markus Kerner/Andrew Dromsky (UT) def. Anthony Delcore/Aws Laaribi (WF) 6-3
Order of finish: Doubles (1,3); Singles (5,6,3,1)