Feb. 17, 2013
SEATTLE -- Now in his fourth year with the Vols, senior Edward Jones had never been on court for a deciding match in singles until Sunday.
Given the opportunity, Jones delivered.
The Tennessee veteran fought off a match point and served out a three-set victory over Jordan Szabo on court 5 to lead the Vols to a 4-3 victory over 15th-ranked Texas A&M to close out the ITA National Team Indoor Championships.
"You know, you go through your whole career and sometimes aren't lucky enough to be in a situation like that to be able to have the opportunity to step up," Tennessee head coach Sam Winterbotham said. "When you need him, he's going to step up and be there for you. I can confidently say that's a character trait of Ed's."
Despite a disappointing loss in the doubles point that came down to two tiebreakers, Tennessee (12-3) jumped out in singles and got the four matches the team needed to secure a victory in tournament consolation after tough losses to UCLA and Ole Miss the first two days of the tournament.
Sophomore Hunter Reese blazed through his match to get the Vols on the scoreboard. He was off the court in less than an hour and cheering on teammates after dispatching Harrison Adams 6-0, 6-2 on court 2 to tie the Texas A&M at 1-1.
Reese was finished with his match before two first sets on other courts were even finished. Both teams won three sets each, meaning the Vols needed a three-set victory to complete the comeback.
The Vols answered minutes later two more point to tie the score at 3-3. Sophomore Brandon Fickey earned his third ranked win in two weeks, beating No. 67 Shane Vinsant 6-3, 6-2 on court 4. Sophomore Mikelis Libietis followed suit on court 1, downing Junior Ore 7-6 (2), 7-6 (4) on court 1.
When Libietis finished his match, the players and fans all migrated to the other bank of courts, where Jones was down 3-1 in the final set. The Tennessee senior had been in many pressure-filled, match-deciding situations before in doubles, but this was the first time he was the last one on in singles.
"I was telling myself last night that I'd love to be the last one on if it came down to that situation," Jones said. "At 3-1, I knew it was going to be me on the court. I relished the opportunity. It made it that much more exciting to see how much it means to the guys. We wanted to finish the weekend on a good note."
With teammates now lining the court for both sides, Jones broke Szabo back to get back on serve.
"I still felt pretty confident because I had been returning really well throughout most of the match," Jones said. "I felt like I'd get a good look at a few return games, which I did. I broke back quickly."
Both players held serve without much difficulty for the next few games. Serving at 4-5, Jones saved a match point and settled down for one of his best return games of the match.
Jones rifled several perfectly placed returns cross court that Szabo could not get back over the net on his approach, including on break point to take a 6-5 lead. After the changeover, Jones served out the match on his first opportunity and celebrated with teammates on court after the 2-6, 6-4, 7-5 victory.
"To come back after the doubles point was a really good achievement for us boys because we were really close to getting the doubles point," Jones said. "It was a few points here and there. We were a bit gutted that we didn't get it, but to come back in all these singles matches to get the four points was really good."
Jones is now 13-9 this season with 73 career singles wins. He also recorded his 82nd career doubles win, putting him just one win shy of the Tennessee top 10.
The Vols have a week off to prepare for the outdoor season. The debut in the elements won't be easy. The Vols are set to play at Georgia on March 1 to open SEC play. The Vols and Bulldogs have traditionally played the final match of the regular season.
"We're at a juncture with our team this year," Winterbotham said. "We know we're good. We have to believe we're good. We're certainly putting in the work to earn that right. We just now need to be a little more clinical and finish when we have the opportunity. Today was a great step toward that."
Tennessee 4, Texas A&M 3
1. Mikelis Libietis, UT, def. Junior Ore, A&M, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (4)
2. Hunter Reese, UT, def. Harrison Adams, A&M, 6-0, 6-2
3. Jeremy Efferding, A&M, def. Jarryd Chaplin, UT, 6-0, 7-5
4. Brandon Fickey, UT, def. Shane Vinsant, A&M, 6-3, 6-2
5. Edward Jones, UT, def. Jordan Szabo, A&M, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5
6. Behzad Minavi, A&M, def. Taylor Patrick, UT, 6-2, 7-5
1. Withrow/Ore, A&M, def. Chaplin/Libietis, UT, 8-7 (5)
2. Jones/Collins, UT, def. Adams/Vinsant, A&M, 8-5
3. Szabo/Efferding, A&M, def. Reese/Fickey, 8-7 (5)
Order of Finish: Doubles (1,2,3); Singles (2,6,3,4,1,5).