March 9, 2012
Six weeks after defeating Mississippi on the home indoor courts, the Tennessee Volunteers could not replicate that feat Friday in a 5-2 loss outside at Barksdale Stadium.
Playing at home for the first time in a month, the Vols (8-8, 1-2 SEC) took the doubles point with a late rally on court 1 by freshmen Mikelis Libietis and Hunter Reese. From there, however, Mississippi took hold of the momentum early by winning first sets on all six courts.
Adrian Forberg, a late substitute on court 6, clinched the win at 4-1 with a 7-5, 6-1 victory over sophomore Taylor Patrick.
"We got some energy back at 1 doubles and managed to scrape out the doubles point," Tennessee head coach Sam Winterbotham said. "We really put ourselves in a hole with that. I really thought we'd be better coming out for singles. I thought we would have gotten out of our system.
"We weren't committed to win the match. It's one of those days where it was a man's game . . . Sometimes you just have to step in there and say, `I'm going to do it' and we didn't do that."
The Vols had defeated Mississippi 4-3 on Jan. 30 in the final of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend to advance to the national indoor tournament. Both teams had changed their lineup for the rematch. Notably, the Vols switched personnel on courts 2 and 3, with Reese moving up and fellow freshman Brandon Fickey occupying the No. 3 position.
The Rebels doubles lineup underwent the most noticeable change. With Chris Thiemann scratched from both lineups, Mississippi's No. 2 team of Jonas Lutjen and Nik Scholtz moved up.
Mississippi gained command of doubles early with Marcel Thiemann and Adrian Forberg beating sophomore Jarryd Chaplin and freshman Brandon Fickey 8-1, but the Vols evened the score when senior Bryan Swartz and junior Edward Jones held on to beat Johan Backstrom and William Kallberg 8-6.
Libietis and Reese rallied from down a break late to beat Nik Scholtz and Jonas Lutjen 9-8 (2) to clinch the point. The Vols freshman duo, ranked 17th nationally, improved to 17-4 this season and 3-0 in conference play.
In singles, the Rebels took command by winning first sets on all six courts. Reese served for the first set twice against Marcel Thiemann on court 2 and Patrick also had two chances to serve for the set on 6 against Forberg.
Kallberg tied the team score at 1-1 when he beat Chaplin 6-4, 6-4. Mississippi added two more points on the even courts when Scholtz defeated Libietis 6-2, 6-4 on court 1 and Backstrom got past Jones 6-4, 6-2.
Tennessee was in a must-win situation on the three remaining courts, but Forberg clinched the match against Patrick.
After the match was decided, the final two singles contests were played out. Reese was up 4-0 in the second set but lost to Thiemann 7-6 (5), 6-4 on court 2. Fickey provided Tennessee's lone win. He snapped his 8-match losing streak, beating No. 48 Jonas Lutjen 2-6, 7-6 (4), [13-11] on court 3.
Tennessee hosts Mississippi State at home Sunday in what will count as the finals of the Blue Gray National Tennis Classic. The match begins at 1 p.m.
"We have to get better," Winterbotham said. "We aren't making excuses. There aren't any excuses to be made. We played and got beat. Tomorrow we're going to work hard and get ready for Sunday."
Mississippi 5, Tennessee 2
1. #55 Nik Scholtz (OM) def. #36 Mikelis Libietis (UT) 6-2, 6-4
2. #46 Marcel Thiemann (OM) def. #95 Hunter Reese (UT) 7-6 (7-5), 6-4
3. Brandon Fickey (UT) def. #48 Jonas Lutjen (OM) 2-6, 7-6 (7-4), 1-0 (13-11)
4. #49 William Kallberg (OM) def. Jarryd Chaplin (UT) 6-4, 6-4
5. Johan Backstrom (OM) def. Edward Jones (UT) 6-4, 6-2
6. Adrian Forberg (OM) def. Taylor Patrick (UT) 7-5, 6-1
1. #17 Mikelis Libietis/Hunter Reese (UT) def. Nik Scholtz/Jonas Lutjen (OM) 9-8 (2)
2. Marcel Thiemann/Adrian Forberg (OM) def. Jarryd Chaplin/Brandon Fickey (UT) 8-1
3. Edward Jones/Bryan Swartz (UT) def. Johan Backstrom/William Kallberg (OM) 8-6
Order of finish: Doubles (2,3,1); Singles (4,1,5,6,2,3)