March 24, 2013
KNOXVILLE -- Senior Taylor Patrick has waited his whole career to deliver the heroics for the Vols on the tennis courts.
That moment arrived Sunday.
Patrick won his first career SEC match with some of his best tennis in the third set to clinch the ninth-ranked Vols' 4-2 victory over 13th-ranked Vanderbilt indoors at the Goodfriend Tennis Center.
The Vols won the doubles point with leads across all the courts, but Vanderbilt (13-6, 4-3) struck in singles, taking four of six first sets. The Vols regained momentum and put the three singles points they needed on the board from sophomore Mikelis Libietis, junior Jarryd Chaplin and finally from Patrick, who beat Rhys Johnson 7-6 (6), 4-6, 6-0.
With the home victory, Tennessee (17-6, 4-3) wrapped up a two-win weekend that included a 4-1 upset on the road against fourth-ranked Kentucky on Friday.
"Well the whole weekend has just been a great team effort," Tennessee head coach Sam Winterbotham said. "I think it's fantastic that Taylor gets to clinch the match for us. Stepped in and told me yesterday and said 'Coach, I'm ready; put me in.' I tell you it gives you a lot of confidence when your players want the opportunity."
The Vols host Texas A&M this Friday at 3 p.m.
Ever since teaming up again in the second weekend of SEC play, the Vols' No. 1 doubles team of Libietis and Hunter Reese has been leading the way to start matches. They did so again on Sunday, defeating Ryan Lipman and Marc Van der Merwe 8-5 to improve to 6-0 in SEC play.
Patrick and fellow senior Edward Jones secured the doubles point for the Vols on court 3 with an 8-4 victory against Johnson and Jeff Offerdahl. It was Patrick's first career win in SEC play and only his second dual match doubles win this season. On the other end of the spectrum, the victory was the 84th in Jones' career, moving him solely into 10th place on the UT doubles wins list.
Vanderbilt came out strong across most courts in singles. Libietis and Patrick were the only Vols to win opening sets, and the Vols' sophomore star made the most of winning the opening frame.
Libietis, now ranked sixth nationally, defeated No. 25 Lipman 6-3, 6-2 to record his 30th win of the season and improve to 5-0 in SEC play. Libietis had lost to Lipman during the fall tournament season, but wasted no time in winning the rematch.
Vanderbilt eventually tied up the match 2-2. Kris Yee beat Jones 6-1, 6-4 on court 5, and Jeff Offerdahl defeated Brandon Fickey 6-1, 1-6, 6-4 on court 3.
At that point, Reese, Chaplin and Patrick were the three Vols left on court, all in third sets.
Chaplin was facing the end of his match on court 4 when his opponent, Van der Mewre served for the match at 5-4 in the third set. From there, Chaplin's serve-and-volley game started clicking with the crowd cheering him on.
Chaplin lost only one point in the final three games of the match, breaking the Vanderbilt freshman with a series of winners from all points on the court. He held serve and then broke van Der Mewre to win 4-6, 6-0, 7-5.
"The crowd was awesome, I was so happy with the amount of people that turned out because towards the end I just kind of played to the crowd," Chaplin said. "I played of couple matches indoors on that court and had some similar finishes like that, so I feel like I get in the zone sometimes. They help me out so much, especially at the right time, because I was that close serving for the match at the end."
Patrick and Reese were the final two Vols left on court. Reese and Gonzales Austin were locked in a long three-setter when Patrick started pulling away.
Patrick had lost the second set 6-4 to Johnson, but his late rally to make the second set close helped propel the senior into the third set.
"I looked down the courts and I figured it was going to be a close match, so I knew my match was going to count," I started to think about it a little too much in the second set ... but again I have to give credit to Woody (Coach Chris Woodruff) for keeping me on track coming back. Just kept rolling and rolling and then in the third I felt like I was unstoppable."
The Knoxville senior was practically flawless in the final set. He broke Johnson three times in the third to win 7-6, 4-6, 6-0 and immediately jumped into Woodruff's arms in celebration on court before being joined by teammates.
With two top-15 victories this weekend over Kentucky and Vanderbilt, the ninth-ranked Vols are poised for a climb back up the rankings on Tuesday. The team has been ranked as high as sixth this season.
"What we did this weekend was just confirming that we belong there," Chaplin said. "We've beat those kinds of teams before and never doubt ourselves when we play them. We believe that we're good enough."
#9 Tennessee 4, #13 Vanderbilt 2
1. #6 Mikelis Libietis, UT, def. #25 Ryan Lipman, VU, 6-3, 6-2
2. #29 Hunter Reese, UT, vs. #41 Gonzales Austin, VU, 3-6, 6-2, 4-5 unf.
3. Jeff Offerdahl, VU, def. #115 Brandon Fickey, UT, 6-1, 1-6, 6-4
4. Jarryd Chaplin, VU, def. Marc Van der Merwe, VU, 4-6, 6-0, 7-5
5. Kris Yee, VU, def. Ed Jones, UT, 6-1, 6-4
6. Taylor Patrick, UT, def. Rhys Johnson, VU, 7-6 (6), 4-6, 6-0
1. #17 Libietis/Reese, UT, def. Lipman/Van der Merwe, VU, 8-3
2. Fickey/Chaplin, UT, vs. Austin/Eswaran, 7-5 unf.
3. Patrick/Jones, UT, def. Offerdahl/Johnson, VU, 8-4
Order of Finish: Doubles (1,3); Singles (1,5,3,4,6).