April 26, 2009
Auburn, Ala. -- Playing in their fourth Southeastern Conference tournament final in the last nine years, the third-seed and No. 6 Tennessee Volunteers stormed back from a 3-0 deficit and gave a solid Ole Miss team all it could handle, but the Rebels claimed their second straight championship by a 4-2 count at Auburn's Yarbrough Tennis Center. Ole Miss (24-2) receives the SEC automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
"Our effort today was fantastic and our commitment was tremendous," said Tennessee head coach Sam Winterbotham. "As a coach you the love the commitment these guys showed today. They gave everything they had to make a push at the end."
The Rebels captured the best-of-three doubles point to start the match as the duo of Devin Britton and Tucker Vorster defeated UT's No. 42 tandem of Boris Conkic and Matteo Fago, 8-3, at the No. 2 slot. The Vols evened it up as the No. 5 pair of John-Patrick Smith and Davey Sandgren defeated the nation's No. 1 team of Bram ten Berge and Jonas Berg, 8-5. Smith and Sandgren, who lost a tough 9-7 decision to the pair in Oxford, Miss., during the regular season, jumped on them early by taking a 3-0 lead and holding on for final margin. Kalle Norberg and Otto Sauer clinched the point at No. 3, beating Matt Brewer and Bryan Swartz, 8-3.
The Rebels then took a commanding a 3-0 lead, winning quickly at the No. 5 and 6 spots. Marcel Thiemann defeated Brewer at No. 6, 6-1, 6-3, while UT's Christian Hansen fell to Sauer at No. 5, 6-4, 6-1.
But momentum soon began to swing the other way as the Vols took command at the top four singles slots. Sandgren and Smith took straight set wins at No. 3 and No. 1, respectively, to cut the Rebel lead to 3-2. Sandgren snapped his two-match losing streak in the tournament with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Berge at No. 4. The eighth-ranked Smith then won a tight 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) match over No. 16 Berg at No. 1 to get the adrenaline flowing and a feeling of an upset brewing.
Fago was leading and had control of his match against the 39th-ranked and SEC Tournament MVP Norberg, 7-6 (7-5), 4-1, at No. 4.
So it came down to the No. 2 singles spot where a battle of ranked players ensued. Britton, ranked 37th, won a tight first set over the 33rd-ranked Conkic, 7-5. Then, trailing by a 4-2 count in the second set, Conkic won the next two points but Britton then broke his serve with some tremendous shots and won 6-4 to clinch the match for the Rebels.
"Britton made some great shots to win against Boris," said Winterbotham. "When you play at this level, it's only a shot or two that make the difference."
Tennessee (21-6) returns home where it will await its NCAA Tournament fate. The bracket will be announced on April 28 on ESPNews at 5:20 p.m. ET.
#2 Ole Miss 4, #6 Tennessee 2
1. #8 John-Patrick Smith (UT) def. #16 Jonas Berg (OM) 6-3, 7-6 (7-5)
2. #37 Devin Britton (OM) def. #33 Boris Conkic (UT) 7-5, 6-4
3. #39 Kalle Norberg (OM) vs. Matteo Fago (UT) 6-7 (5-7), 1-4, unfinished
4. Davey Sandgren (UT) def. Bram ten Berge (OM) 7-5, 6-3
5. Otto Sauer (OM) def. Christian Hansen (UT) 6-4, 6-1
6. Marcel Thiemann (OM) def. Matt Brewer (UT) 6-1, 6-3
1. #5 John-Patrick Smith/Davey Sandgren (UT) def. #1 Bram ten Berge/Jonas Berg (OM) 8-5
2. Devin Britton/Tucker Vorster (OM) def. #42 Boris Conkic/Matteo Fago (UT) 8-3
3. Kalle Norberg/Otto Sauer (OM) def. Matt Brewer/Bryan Swartz (UT) 8-3
Order of finish: Doubles (2,1,3); Singles (6,5,4,1,2)