April 8, 2011
By Amanda Pruitt
The Tennessee Volunteers took care of business Friday to remain in the hunt for a consecutive Southeastern Conference title with two matches left on schedule.
The fourth-ranked Vols swept the doubles point then won all six singles matches in straight sets to blank South Carolina 7-0 at Barksdale Stadium in their first home match in three weeks.
Tennessee (18-3, 8-1 SEC) hosts 16th-ranked Florida on Sunday at 1 p.m. and concludes SEC play next week at conference-leading and seventh-ranked Georgia.
The Vols took control of doubles early, getting breaks on all three courts within the first minutes of the match. Sophomores Tennys Sandgren and Rhyne Williams wrapped up an 8-2 win on court 2, and senior Matteo Fago and sophomore Edward Jones clinched the match with an 8-2 victory of their own on court 3.
After the doubles point was decided, top-ranked seniors Boris Conkic and John-Patrick Smith extended their winning streak to 16 matches by defeating Alexander Kostanov and Chip Cox 8-5. The senior duo improved to 20-1 this spring.
In singles, the Vol with the longest active winning streak was off the courts first. Sophomore Tennys Sandgren earned his career-best 17th-consecutive victory by defeating Cox 6-1, 6-3 to give the Vols a 2-0 lead. With a 9-0 record in SEC play this season, Sandgren improved to 19-0 in his career in conference matches.
Tennessee head coach Sam Winterbotham knew Sandgren was a great player coming in as a freshman in January last season. But this spring, the sophomore from Gallatin has stepped up to become the most consistent winner in the lineup with a 20-1 record since January, including 17-0 in dual matches.
"It's been incredible how much he's matured," Winterbotham said. "He's grown; he's gotten so much better. It's scary to think how much better Tennys is going to be."
After Sandgren's victory, Conkic snapped his four-match losing streak with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Jake Boling on court 5. Williams, playing at the top of the lineup for just the second time in a month, clinched the team win at 4-0 by beating Kostanov 7-6 (5), 6-1.
Smith earned a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Ivan Machado on court 1, and Jones won 6-2, 7-5 against Chris Sheehan on court 6. Fago bounced back from a slow start to beat Harry Menzies 6-3, 7-5 on court 5 to secure the shutout.
On Sunday, the Vols will honor Conkic, Fago and Smith as they play their final regular-season home match at Barksdale Stadium. The senior trio, who have won nearly 350 matches combined in their UT careers, have helped reestablish Tennessee as one of the elite tennis programs in the country during their four years in Knoxville.
Prior to the match, Smith will be recognized in front of the home crowd as the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame Male Amateur Athlete of the Year. Smith formally accepted the award at the organization's annual banquet in February, becoming the first UT tennis player to ever receive the annual award.
Between singles and doubles, all three seniors will be honored for their accomplishments at Tennessee.
Free T-shirts and tennis trading cards will be given to the first 250 fans at the match, which starts at 1 p.m. Admission is free and parking is also available in lot N-15.
The Vols have won 32 consecutive home matches. The senior class is 52-2 in Knoxville matches over their four-year careers, and John-Patrick Smith has won his last 31 singles matches at home ... With his win against Machado, Smith tied Peter Handoyo (1999-2002) for second on Tennessee's career wins list with 145 ... Matteo Fago recorded his 96th career win. With four more victories, he would become the ninth player to reach 100 career singles wins ... Tennys Sandgren is now 29-4 this season, good for an .879 winning percentage ... Tennessee has six shutouts this season.
Tennessee 7, South Carolina 0
1. #4 Rhyne Williams (UT) def. Alexander Kostanov (USC) 7-6 (5), 6-1
2. #12 John-Patrick Smith (UT) def. Ivan Machado (USC) 6-1, 6-4
3. #48 Tennys Sandgren (UT) def. Chip Cox (USC) 6-1, 6-3
4. #56 Matteo Fago (UT) def. Harry Menzies (USC) 6-3, 7-5
5. #121 Boris Conkic (UT) def. Jake Bowling (USC) 6-1, 6-2
6. Edward Jones (UT) def. Chris Sheehan (USC) 6-2, 7-5
1. #1 Boris Conkic/John-Patrick Smith (UT) def. Alexander Kostanov/Chip Cox (USC) 8-5
2. #61 Tennys Sandgren/Rhyne Williams (UT) def. Harry Menzies/Chris Sheehan (USC) 8-2
3. Edward Jones/Matteo Fago (UT) def. Jake Bowling/Ivan Machado (USC) 8-2
Order of finish: Doubles (2,3,1); Singles (3,5,1,2,6,4)