Feb. 21, 2011
SEATTLE -- Playing in their third national title match in a little more than a year on Monday, the Tennessee Volunteers endured a disappointingly similar result.
They had to accept another second-place trophy.
After top-seeded Virginia captured a closely-contested doubles point via a pair of tiebreakers, Tennessee trudged out to a slow start in singles and fell 4-0 in the finals of the ITA National Team Indoor Championships at the Nordstrom Tennis Center.
Monday's story was a familiar one. The third-ranked Vols (9-1) lost last season's National Indoors title match to Virginia 4-1 on the Cavaliers' home courts, and a few months later, Tennessee came up short again 4-2 to Southern California in the NCAA Championships.
The good news is this: the Vols are just one step away.
"Everyone feels awful to lose in a final," Tennessee coach Sam Winterbotham said. "No one feels great about that performance, but in the big picture, we're putting ourselves in position to win championships. Now it's just a case of making an adjustment as a team and getting over that line."
Doubles looked good for the Vols at the start when seniors Boris Conkic and John-Patrick Smith delivered a strong 8-4 victory on court 1 against Michael Shabaz and Alex Domijan. It was Conkic's 100th career doubles victory, making him the fourth Vol in history to reach the 100-win milestone in singles and doubles.
Despite the success on court 1, the Vols could not duplicate that on the other two courts, losing a pair of nail-biting tiebreakers. Sophomore Edward Jones and senior Matteo Fago had their 11-match winning streak snapped 9-8 (4) by Drew Courtney and Steven Rooda on court 2.
In the deciding match, sophomore Rhyne Williams and freshman Jarryd Chaplin rallied late to tie the score but lost 9-8 (5) in a tiebreaker to Sanam Singh and Jarmere Jenkins on court 3. On Williams' second serve, Jenkins hit a return winner down the line to seal the point for the Cavaliers.
The Vols had not lost the doubles point in 22 matches.
"Virginia played great and won an unbelievably close doubles point," Winterbotham said. "We had our chances to take the doubles point, but on another day, we'll be more aggressive in those situations."
The Vols fell behind quickly in singles, losing the first set on five of the six courts. Fago lost 6-1, 6-1 to Jenkins on court 4, and Shabaz gave Virginia the 3-0 lead when he beat Williams 6-2, 6-2.
While Smith had his chances to even up the score against second-ranked Domijan in the second set, he could not get back into the match on court 2. Domijan served for the team title with a 6-2, 6-4 victory.
It was the first time the Vols had been shut out in a match since losing 4-0 to Virginia in the semifinals of the 2009 National Indoors.
"Virginia just jumped on us in singles and we could not get back into it," Winterbotham said. "We needed to split one of those sets to let our other three guys really sink their teeth into their matches. Virginia is a very good team, and we dug ourselves a hole too deep to get out of today."
In singles, the team welcomed the return of Tennys Sandgren to the singles lineup. The sophomore from Gallatin had been unable to play nearly the entire tournament because of an illness. He was back on court 3 on Monday, losing the first set 6-4 to Singh but holding at 4-4 in the second when the match ended.
Conkic, who finished the tournament 2-0, was the only Vol to win his first set by breaking Courtney to take it 6-4 on court 5. Jones had lost his first set quickly to Justin Shane on court 6, but he had rallied in the second and was serving to force a third set at 5-3.
The Tennessee squad can now turn its attention to the outdoor tennis season, which could start as soon as Sunday, weather permitting at Barksdale Stadium. The Vols are hosting Wake Forest at 1 p.m.
1. Michael Shabaz, UVa, def. Rhyne Williams, UT, 6-2, 6-2
2. Alex Domijan, UVa, def. John-Patrick Smith, UT, 6-2, 6-4
3. Sanam Singh, UVa, vs. Tennys Sandgren, UT, 6-4, 4-4 DNF
4. Jarmere Jenkins, UVa, def. Matteo Fago, UT, 6-1, 6-1
5. Boris Conkic UT, vs. Drew Courtney, UVa, 6-4, 3-3 DNF
6. Justin Shane, UVa, vs. Edward Jones, UT, 6-2, 3-5 DNF
1. Boris Conkic/John-Patrick Smith, UT, def. Michael Shabaz/Alex Domijan, UVa, 8-4
2. Jarmere Jenkins/Sanam Singh, UVa, def. Jarryd Chaplin/Rhyne Williams, UVa, 9-8 (5)
3. Drew Courtney/Steven Rooda, UVa, def. Matteo Fago/Edward Jones, UT, 9-8 (4)
Order of Finish: Doubles (1,3,2,); Singles (4,1,2).