March 2, 2014
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Barksdale Stadium opened its doors for the first time this spring, announcing the start of outdoor play. Windy, overcast weather welcomed the Vols in their first match since the ITA National Indoor Tournaments.
The venue may have changed, but the losing trend continued Sunday afternoon. UT has now lost three out of four matches, including the first loss in Knoxville this season.
The No. 11 Tennessee men's tennis (10-4, 0-1 SEC) fell to SEC rival Georgia in the conference opener, 4-0. The No. 35 Bulldogs (5-5, 1-0 SEC) used a come-from-behind effort to capture the doubles point, followed up by three straight-set singles wins to secure the conference win.
"(The Georgia matchup) is always a great rivalry, so you expect everyone to be up for that and excited about playing it," said UT head coach Sam Winterbotham. "In order to be the best you can be, you have to compete every day, compete in practice, work to get better. You just didn't see the resiliency we need and we have to look ourselves in the face and say `maybe we're not working hard enough.'"
The day started well for Tennessee. The No. 2 doubles pair of Hunter Reese and Mikelis Libietis picked up a top-15 win over No. 14 Hernus Pieters and Ben Wagland, 8-5. Reese and Libietis snapped a three-match winless streak (including two unfinished matches) to secure their 21st win of the season.
Georgia took control after the win on court one. With the two remaining courts at similar 7-7 scores, the Bulldogs fought off the Vols to win both deciding tiebreakers. On court three, Eric Diaz and Austin Smith outlasted Jarryd Chaplin and Bartosz Sawicki 7-3 to take the match 8-7.
Meanwhile, Nathan Pasha and Garrett Brasseaux jumped out to a lead late in the tiebreak to win the set 8-7 (7-5) on court two over Andrew Dromsky and Markus Kerner to clinch the doubles point. This is the fourth straight match which Tennessee's opponent has won the critical doubles point.
"There was a huge opportunity that went begging by not winning that doubles point," said Chaplin. "Last year at the (SEC) tournament, we lost in a very similar fashion. We went out and played dejected in singles and I was hoping that that wasn't going to be the case again. We let the doubles point affect us."
The visiting team from Athens, Ga., continued its momentum after the intermission, winning four of the six first sets. Chaplin was the first Vol to win a first set on court three, while Reese followed on court two after a back-and-forth tiebreaker, but UGA refused to let UT win another set the rest of the match.
Georgia added to its lead via courts one, five and six. No. 16 Smith swept No. 32 Libietis 6-4, 6-2 on court one. Knoxville Catholic alum, and No. 100 in the country, Nick Wood swept Sawicki 6-3, 6-1 on court six, while Hernus Pieters won straight sets over Kerner on court five, including a crucial tiebreaker to seal the first set.
"(We) just need to finish," said Reese, a Kennesaw, Ga., native. "I felt like in the beginning we got some breaks on some courts and we just didn't finish. That's just something this team needs to get better at."
The current four-match homestand continues Tuesday afternoon, when Tennessee hosts No. 42 Georgia Tech at 2 p.m. at Barksdale Stadium.
1. #16 Austin Smith (UGA) def. #32 Mikelis Libietis (UT) 6-4, 6-2
2. #21 Hunter Reese (UT) vs. #30 Nathan Pasha (UGA) 7-6 (7-3), 2-3, unfinished
3. #66 Ben Wagland (UGA) vs. Jarryd Chaplin (UT) 6-3, 2-6, 1-1 unfinished
4. Andrew Dromsky (UT) vs. #76 Garrett Brasseaux (UGA) 3-6, 5-6, unfinished
5. Hernus Pieters (UGA) def. Markus Kerner (UT) 7-6 (8-6), 6-1
6. #110 Nick Wood (UGA) def. Bartosz Sawicki (UT) 6-3, 6-1
1. #2 Mikelis Libietis/Hunter Reese (UT) def. #14 Hernus Pieters/Ben Wagland (UGA) 8-5
2. Garrett Brasseaux/Nathan Pasha (UGA) def. Andrew Dromsky/Markus Kerner (UT) 8-7
3. Austin Smith/Eric Diaz (UGA) def. Jarryd Chaplin/Bartosz Sawicki (UT) 8-7
Order of Finish: Doubles (1,3,2); Singles (1,6,5)