April 19, 2013
OXFORD, Miss. -- The seventh-ranked Vols turned the tide midway through singles to beat No. 16 Vanderbilt 4-1 in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament at the Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center.
Sophomore Hunter Reese's second-half comeback on court 2 helped spark the Vols on a number of courts as the team dug in after losing four of six first sets in singles.
After winning doubles, Mikelis Libietis beat No. 13 Ryan Lipman for the second time this year on court 1 to put UT up 2-1. Jarryd Chaplin defeated Jeff Offerdahl 7-5, 6-3 on court 3, and seconds later, Reese provided the clinching point.
Reese reeled off 12 of the final 13 games of his match to defeat Gonzales Austin 4-6, 6-0, 6-1.
"I'm really proud of our guys because they toughed that out," Tennessee head coach Sam Winterbotham said. "We didn't play really great, and we toughed that match out, and that's really impressive."
With the win, Tennessee will face third-seeded Florida in the semifinals on Saturday at 11 a.m. Eastern.
In doubles, the Vols jumped ahead early on all three courts.
Chaplin and Patrick eventually held out an 8-6 victory on court 3. Jones and Collins sealed the doubles point with an 8-5 win on court 2.
The Commodores did not let the loss in doubles get them down, however. Fresh off a 4-1 win over Auburn the day before, Vanderbilt won four of six first sets. Vandy tied the match at 1-1 when Rhys Johnson beat Patrick 6-2, 6-2 on court 6.
"Vanderbilt really competed so well at the start of singles and got us off-guard a little bit," Winterbotham said.
Libietis and Chaplin both took the first sets, but the Vols needed at least one three-set win to earn a spot in the semifinals. Reese led the charge in that comeback department.
After losing a close first set to Austin 6-4, Reese buckled down the rest of the way. In a battle of baseline play, the sophomore Vol proved to be the more consistent player, taking advantage of Austin's hard-hitting errors.
Reese eventually won 11 consecutive games to help turn the momentum soundly back in the Vols' favor.
"He made a little adjustment in strategy," Winterbotham said. "I think that helped. I think his opponent went off the boards a little bit and allowed him back into the match, then in the third set Reese played really well."
While Reese was wrapping up his three-set match on court 2, Libietis recovered from a mid-set slowdown in the second set to win at the top of the lineup. The Vols' ace lost five games in a row to Lipman but eventually won the second set in a tiebreaker to put Tennessee up 2-1.
Chaplin and Reese both served for their matches at the same time. Chaplin won in straight sets for his fourth-consecutive victory before Reese clinched the deal on court 2.
The Vols now turn their attention to third-seeded Florida. The Gators defeated South Carolina 4-0 in their quarterfinal match.
"We lost to them, 4-3, at home, so we know it's going to be a tough battle," Winterbotham said. "They are good at every position.
"I'm happy with how our guys are, I'm happy with the place the team is and we'll find out tomorrow, if they're in that place still, then we're in good shape."
Tennessee 4, Vanderbilt 1
1. #3 Mikelis Libietis (UT) def. #13 Ryan Lipman (VU) 6-2, 7-6 (4)
2. #34 Hunter Reese (UT) def. #51 Gonzales Austin (VU) 4-6, 6-0, 6-1
3. Jarryd Chaplin (UT) def. Jeff Offerdahl (VU) 7-5, 6-3
4. John Collins (UT) vs. Kris Yee (VU) 5-7, 4-3, unf.
5. Marc van der Merwe (VU) vs. Ed Jones (UT) 2-6, 7-5, unf.
6. Rhys Johnson (VU) def. Taylor Patrick (UT) 6-2, 6-2
1. #3 Mikelis Libietis/Hunter Reese (UT) vs. Ryan Lipman/Gonzales Austin (VU) 7-5, unfinished
2. #47 John Collins/Ed Jones (UT) def. Marc van der Merwe/Rhys Johnson (VU) 8-5
3. Jarryd Chaplin/Taylor Patrick (UT) def. Jeff Offerdahl/Suresh Eswaran (VU) 8-6