April 21, 2013
OXFORD, Miss. -- After losing a close doubles point, the Tennessee Volunteers could not keep pace with Georgia in a 4-0 loss Sunday in the title match of the SEC Men's Tennis Tournament.
The seventh-ranked Vols (23-8) dropped the doubles point in nearly identical fashion to the regular-season 4-1 loss at Georgia: a tiebreaker on court 2. After that, No. 7 Georgia (22-4) won five of six first sets on their way to the shutout win.
"We competed hard in doubles, but I just think they lacked the belief in singles," said Tennessee head coach Sam Winterbotham, who has led the Vols to the SEC finals three times in seven years. "Look, you've got to give Georgia great credit. They lost one match all SEC season. Today, they didn't really give us a sniff. I'm a little disappointed, I know our guys are disappointed."
Sophomores Mikelis Libietis and Hunter Reese were named to the SEC All-Tournament Team following the match. The Vols' court leaders both went 2-0 in singles and won their only completed doubles match together.
Doubles was a neck-and-neck race to the end.
The top two courts remained on serve late. Libietis and Reese broke sixth-ranked Hernus Pieters and Ben Wagland at 7-7, giving Reese a chance to serve it out at the top of the lineup. While that was going on, seniors Edward Jones and John Collins were up 5-2 in a tiebreaker on court 2, but Nathan Pasha and Garrett Brasseaux won the next five points to take the tiebreaker 9-8 (5) and the doubles point.
In singles, Georgia stepped on the gas pedal early and did not look back. Libietis was the only Vol to win a first set, and the points started falling in place for the Bulldogs.
Pasha beat Chaplin 6-2, 6-4 on court 3, Brasseaux defeated Patrick 6-4, 6-1 on court 6 and Austin Smith clinched the match for Georgia 6-4, 6-0 over Jones minutes later.
"You have to tip your hat and give credit to Georgia because they deserved this win today," Winterbotham said. "There's nothing really to say outside that."
The Vols now turn their attention to the NCAA Tournament, which starts May 10. Given their ranking, the Vols are likely to be one of the 16 host schools for the first and second rounds. The NCAA draw selection show will be April 30.
Tennessee picked up two more top-20 wins at the Tournament, defeating No. 16 Vanderbilt 4-1 in the quarterfinals and No. 14 Florida 4-2 in the semifinals. Winterbotham said the team has certainly improved since January and expects the Vols to improve in the next weeks before the 64-team NCAA Championships.
"Obviously our team has goals, so we are disappointed we didn't achieve this goal, but we still have a major goal ahead of us," Winterbotham said. "It's been a tremendous year. Our margin of error for this team is very small. I'm really proud of how they've stuck together the whole time.
"We've just got to get better. We have a could of guys that will get healthy and then I think we will be even better come tournament time."
Georgia 4, Tennessee 0
1. #6 KU Singh (UG) vs. #3 Mikelis Libietis (UT) 4-6, 4-1, unfinished
2. #53 Ben Wagland (UG) vs. #34 Hunter Reese (UT) 6-3, 1-3, unfinished
3. #46 Nathan Pasha (UG) def. Jarryd Chaplin (UT) 6-2, 6-4
4. #125 Hernus Pieters (UG) vs. John Collins (UT) 6-3, 4-1, unfinished
5. Austin Smith (UG) def. Ed Jones (UT) 6-4, 6-0
6. Garrett Brasseaux (UG) def. Taylor Patrick (UT) 6-4, 6-1
1. #6 Hernus Pieters/Ben Wagland (UG) vs. #3 Mikelis Libietis/Hunter Reese (UT) 7-8, unfinished
2. #23 Nathan Pasha/Garrett Brasseaux (UG) def. #47 John Collins/Ed Jones (UT) 9-8 (7-5)
3. Marco Nunez/Eric Diaz (UG) def. Taylor Patrick/Jarryd Chaplin (UT) 9-7
Order of finish: Doubles (3,2); Singles (3,6,5)