Feb. 12, 2010
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The fourth-ranked Tennessee Volunteers faced 13th-ranked Illinois for the second time in less than a week Friday with the same result: a victory.
The match was close at times, but the Vols pulled away for a 4-0 win in the first round of the ITA National Team Indoor Championships at the Boar's Head Sports Club. The Vols face fourth-seeded UCLA in the quarterfinals Saturday at 3 p.m.
Junior John-Patrick Smith, who did not play against Illinois Sunday because of illness, clinched Friday's match in three sets at the No. 1 position over Dennis Nevolo. Smith and senior Davey Sandgren also secured the doubles point at the No. 1 spot.
Just five days earlier, the Vols (8-0) defeated Illinois 6-1 in Knoxville without Smith or senior Matt Brewer in the lineup. With UT's lineup was back to normal and a few alterations to Illinois' lineup, all of Friday's match-ups were different.
"It was a very competitive match, and it was something we were expecting, quite honestly," Tennessee head coach Sam Winterbotham said. "We handled it well."
"We struggled a little in a few spots. But again, we're showing when one spot is perhaps not playing that well, they're competing hard. It really helps that guys who are playing well and winning on their courts to have confidence to finish up the match on their courts. That's something that we feel good about."
The Vols took a quick 1-0 lead on the doubles point and started out solidly in singles, winning five of the six first sets. Things got a little less certain when Illinois forced a third set on three of those courts.
Junior Matteo Fago wrapped up his match first for the Vols, defeating Connor Roth 6-2, 7-5 at the No. 6 position to put UT ahead 2-0. Junior Boris Conkic followed with his 11th consecutive victory. He beat Johnny Hamui 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 in a long, two-set match.
That left the Vols looking for one more point from victory. Smith had lost in straight sets a year ago to Nevolo, but he came away the winner in the second meeting. Smith sent the Vols to the quarterfinals with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 victory.
"J.P. just clinched the match for us today against a guy who's beaten him the last match they've played," Winterbotham said. "I think that says a lot about J.P. He's a leader of this team, and he led by example tonight."
The Vols continued their winning ways in doubles. Conkic and freshman Rhyne Williams were first to finish at No. 2, quickly defeating Marek Czerwinski and Stephen Hoh 8-2. With the win, Conkic and Williams improved to 15-2 this season.
Sandgren and Smith gave the Vols a 1-0 lead when they picked up a break to win it 8-6 over Nevolo and Johnny Hamui.
"We've got the doubles point, which we always aim to do," Smith said. "Everyone jumped on their opponents. We won five of the six first sets. That's a testament on how we came out on top and didn't let up. It was a good way to finish."
For Smith, the three-set match in addition to the closely contested doubles match made for a good fitness test coming off the illness earlier in the week.
"I haven't run that much in at least a week," Smith said. "It was good to get out there and test the body again. Now, I've got another tough match tomorrow, so I've got to get refueled and ready to go."
A live, interactive blog will be available at UTSports.com. Live scoring of all tournament matches can be found at virginiasports.com.
1. John-Patrick Smith, UT, def. Dennis Nevolo, UL, 6-4, 3-6. 6-3
2. Boris Conkic, UT, def. Johnny Hamui, UL, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3
3. Rhyne Williams, UT, led Marek Czerwinski, UL, 6-2, 4-6, 4-3 DNF
4. Stephen Hoh, UL, led Tennys Sandgren, UT, 7-6 (7-4), 5-5 DNF
5. Matt Brewer, UT, vs. Abe Souza, UL, 6-4, 4-6, 4-4 DNF
6. Matteo Fago, UT, def. Connor Roth, UL, 6-2, 7-5
1. D. Sandgren/Smith, UT, def. Nevolo/Hamui, UL, 8-6
2. Conkic/Williams, UT, def. Czerwinski/Hoh, UL, 8-2
3. Fago/T. Sandgren, UT, vs. Roth/Souza, UL, DNF
Order of Finish: Doubles (2, 1); Singles (6, 2, 1).