March 9, 2003
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- After an uplifting victory over No. 15 Alabama on Friday, Tennessee's men's tennis team fell to a hungry Auburn Tigers squad 5-2 Sunday at UT's Varsity Courts. The Vols' record now stands at 7-5 (1-3 SEC) after splitting contests against two top 20 teams this weekend.
Ranked No. 19 in the nation, Auburn entered Sunday's contest looking to rebound from a loss at No. 26 Georgia on Friday. Head coach Eric Shore's team did just that, rattling off four straight wins at Nos. 3 through 6 singles to even their SEC record at 2-2 and improve to 8-3 overall.
For the first time since the SEC season began, Tennessee captured the doubles point. The No. 37-ranked team of Mark Henderson and Simon Rea snapped a four-match losing streak by winning at the No. 2 spot. Mark Dietrich and Wade Orr then clinched the doubles point by winning their fourth straight contest at the No. 1 position. The victory improved the pair's overall season record to 10-2.
"We won the doubles point, and I thought we had a very good chance to win the match today," Tennessee head coach Michael Fancutt said. "Auburn played well and came back strongly and unfortunately we weren't able to get it done."
The comeback that Fancutt referred to consisted of four consecutive Auburn singles wins, beginning at the bottom of the lineup.
Auburn's Tom George defeated Vol freshman Rawl Martin at No. 6 singles to put the Tigers on the scoreboard and even the match at 1-1. Orr then fell to Auburn's Rodrigo Minozzo at the No. 4 spot. The Tigers ensured the win by taking the Nos. 3 and 5 singles contests within moments of one another. Andre Boz's victory over Mark Henderson was the clincher.
The two remaining singles matches were then played out, with Mark Dietrich claiming his second three-set victory in as many days at the No. 2 position. It was Dietrich's 15th singles win of the season.
In what has become a rare occasion this season, Rea suffered a singles loss--only his sixth of the year. After falling behind by one set to the nation's No. 24-ranked singles player, Rameez Junaid, Rea fought his way back into the No. 1 singles match by winning the second set by a score of 6-2. Junaid broke serve early in the third set however, and went on to win the match and avoid the upset.
Fancutt was pleased with the effort his young team gave throughout an extremely challenging weekend. He particularly applauded Dietrich's performance after the sophomore went undefeated in both singles and double against Alabama and Auburn.
"Give credit to Mark Dietrich for winning all of his matches (in singles and doubles)," Fancutt said of the Memphis native. "And Simon Rea today, winning one in doubles and losing a close one in singles. That was good leadership from our top two players, and that's what we need this year.
"We've said all along this year that we needed our three returning upperclassmen to lead the team," Fancutt said. "Mark Dietrich and Wade Orr and Simon Rea have all been good for us this weekend. They've shown some good leadership, and the best way to lead is by winning on the court."
Tennessee will play host to two more SEC opponents next weekend, squaring off with No. 21 LSU Friday, March 14, and then facing No. 20 Arkansas Sunday, March 16. Both matches are scheduled for 1 p.m. and will take place at the Varsity Courts on the UT campus.