Feb. 13, 2010
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Freshman Rhyne Williams earned a key three-set victory Saturday evening to send the Tennessee Volunteers back to the semifinals ITA National Team Indoor Championship.
Williams' win at the No. 3 position clinched the match for the Vols 4-2 over fourth-seeded UCLA in the quarterfinals at the Boar's Head Sports Club.
The Vols (9-0) face Texas in the semifinals Sunday at noon.
Tennessee led the match 3-2 and needed just one more point to end it. Williams, ranked 22nd nationally, started his third set on an absolute tear, jumping out to a 4-0 lead. With a strong serve on match point, he defeated No. 118 Nick Meister 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, and teammates rushed out to celebrate on the court.
The full Virginia crowd, which included a fair share of fraternity pledges in Halloween-esque costumes, was waiting for the Cavaliers' following match on the stadium courts. It did not take them long for most of them to start backing the Volunteers.
In Williams' own words, it was exciting to be the "clinching dude."
"It was really fun -- even the UVa crowd got into it," Williams said. "I had a great serve on match point, and it was really fun to have everybody run out and be all happy."
For the second day, Junior Matteo Fago was first off the court for the Vols. He defeated Kallim Stewart 6-3, 6-3 at No. 6 to improve to 19-6. Junior Boris Conkic won his 12th consecutive match by defeated Holden Seguso 6-2, 6-1. Conkic has not lost in 2010, and his win gave the Vols a 3-1 lead.
Junior John-Patrick Smith was starting to pick up some momentum on the No. 1 court. He won the second set 6-4 and was tied with Haythem Abid 1-1 in the third set when the match ended.
UCLA (3-1) took points at the Nos. 4 and 5 positions. Freshman Tennys Sandgren suffered his first dual match loss at the No. 4 spot.
The Vols remained unbeaten in doubles during dual matches. Smith and senior Davey Sandgren won their match quickly in 8-4 fashion.
Fago clinched No. 3 doubles by hitting two incredible shots in a tiebreaker, the match-winner coming on an off-balanced backhand. He and Tennys Sandgren won 9-8 (7-3) over 36th-ranked Matt Brooklyn and Kallim Stewart to secure the doubles point.
Although their match remained unfinished, Conkic and Williams were on their way to a likely victory. They were ahead 7-6, and Williams was serving.
"I was happy that we got the doubles point," Williams said. "It's very important, as I've come to realize in college tennis. Once we get the doubles point, it's tough to win four singles against us because we're a really deep team."
The Vols defeated top-seeded Ohio State 4-3 to reach the semifinals of Indoors last season. They lost to eventual champion Virginia 4-0 a day later.
"Last year, we played ourselves out of it," senior Davey Sandgren said before the tournament began. "It was our first time getting that far in a tournament, and we kind of wiped ourselves out emotionally with the matches and practices. I thought we got good experience the first time around."
Now the Vols face a familiar foe in Texas. At last year's NCAA Championships, Texas defeated Tennessee 4-3 in the round of 16. The eventual loss started with Texas winning the doubles point.
Although Williams was not present for last year's clash with Texas, he understands the importance of getting an early lead Sunday. Texas picked up the doubles point in a 4-2 victory over top-seeded Southern California in the quarterfinals.
"Like I said, the doubles point is really key," Williams said. "I feel like if we take that point tomorrow, we'll be in good shape. They're a good team obviously, beating USC."
1. #7 John-Patrick Smith, UT, vs. Haythem Abid, UCLA, 6-7, 6-4, 1-1 DNF
2. #68 Boris Conkic, UT, def. Holden Seguso, UCLA, 6-2, 6-1
3. #22 Rhyne Williams, UT, def. #118 Nick Meister, UCLA, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3
4. Matt Brooklyn, UCLA, def. Tennys Sandgren, UT, 6-2, 6-3
5. #94 Amit Inbar, UCLA, def. #52 Matt Brewer, UT, 6-2, 7-5
6. Matteo Fago, UT, def. Kallim Stewart, UCLA, 6-3, 6-3
1. #7 D. Sandgren/Smith, UT, def. Abid/Seguso, UCLA, 8-4
2. #12 Conkic/Williams, UT, led Inbar/Meister, UCLA, 7-6 DNF
3. Fago/T. Sandgren, UT, def. #36 Brooklyn/Stewart, UCLA, 9-8 (7-3)
Order of Finish: Doubles (1,3); Singles (6,5,2,4,3).