May 11, 2014
DURHAM, N.C. -- With a strong finish in three three-set matches Sunday, the Tennessee Volunteers are heading back to the final site of the NCAA Tennis Championships.
The Vols defeated 11th-seeded Duke 4-2 in a four-hour thriller that featured four three-set matches to win the two-day regional tournament at Ambler Stadium.
"I was really proud of how everybody competed on the courts, whether they won or lost," Tennessee head coach Sam Winterbotham said. "It was a team effort and I think you can say that of Duke's team too."
The victory sends the 20th-ranked Vols (19-10) to the round of 16 at the final tournament site in Athens, Ga. The Vols face UCLA on Friday.
With the match tied 2-2, sophomore Bartosz Sawicki delivered a three-set victory on court 6 to put the Vols in the lead for good.
Libietis faced match points in the second set and fell behind 3-0 to start the third, but he locked down his game as Sawicki finished his match two courts away.
With his teammates cheering at his back, the Latvia native reeled off six games in a row to beat 44th-ranked Fred Saba 2-6, 7-6 (3), 6-3 and clinch the victory.
Reese, who was leading his final set 4-3, ran off his court to celebrate with his doubles partner. Hours earlier, the Libietis and Reese had clinched the doubles point with a win on court 1.
"The whole year, we've had a one-two punch. Me and Hunter," Libietis said. "We kept telling each other, `Me and you. We've got this.'" Libietis said. "When I looked over and saw Bart winning, I knew that me and Hunter would get this. I really have confidence in both of us."
The victory marked the first time the Vols have advanced to the final site from a road regional tournament. The Vols have a 19-7 record in the NCAA Championships under head coach Sam Winterbotham.
The Vols got off to an early lead thanks to doubles play.
Jarryd Chaplin and Andrew Dromsky won their seventh consecutive match together on court 2, winning in a tiebreaker 8-7 (5). Libietis and Reese, ranked second nationally, earned an 8-5 victory a few seconds later at the top of the lineup, their 31st win of the year.
Duke took command to start singles play, winning four of six first sets. The Vols started to turn the momentum early in the second set.
"It's always an interesting dynamic between singles and doubles," Winterbotham said. "The team that loses has a chip on their shoulder. Plus, you've to good players out there. If you give them a couple points, they'll get a break."
Faced with the prospect of potentially playing his final collegiate match, Chaplin wasted no time getting off the court with a victory for Tennessee. He beat Raphael Hemmeler 6-3, 6-3 on court 3 to put Tennessee up 2-0.
Duke eventually tied up the match. Bruno Semenzato, ranked 89th nationally, beat Brandon Fickey 6-1, 7-5 on court 4. Josh Levine earned a 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 victory over Dromsky on court 5.
The tide started turning back in the Vols' favor in the next few minutes. Reese split sets with Tahir on court 1, and Libietis won the second set in a strong tiebreaker on court 2.
Sawicki rolled away from TJ Pura at the bottom of the lineup 6-2, 2-6, 6-0 to give Reese and Libietis an opportunity to clinch the match.
"You had two teams who laid out everything they had for each other," Winterbotham said. "That's what college tennis is all about. This match could have gone either way. You play this match 10 times, and I think it's 5-all."
Tennessee defeated Duke at home 4-2 earlier this season in a match played indoors. None of the match ups were the same Sunday.
#20 Tennessee 4, #11 Duke 2
1. #32 Jason Tahir (DU) vs. #27 Hunter Reese (UT) 6-4, 3-6, 3-4, unfinished
2. #34 Mikelis Libietis (UT) def. #44 Fred Saba (DU) 2-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3
3. Jarryd Chaplin (UT) def. Raphael Hemmeler (DU) 6-3, 6-3
4. #89 Bruno Semenzato (DU) def. Brandon Fickey (UT) 6-1, 7-5
5. Josh Levine (DU) def. Andrew Dromsky (UT) 6-4, 2-6, 6-3
6. Bartosz Sawicki (UT) def. TJ Pura (DU) 6-2, 2-6, 6-0
1. #2 Mikelis Libietis/Hunter Reese (UT) def. #51 Fred Saba/Raphael Hemmeler (DU) 8-5
2. Jarryd Chaplin/Andrew Dromsky (UT) def. Jason Tahir/Josh Levine (DU) 8-7 (7-5)
3. Bruno Semenzato/Cale Hammond (DU) vs. Brandon Fickey/Bartosz Sawicki (UT) 7-5, unfinished
Order of finish: Doubles (2,1); Singles (3,4,5,6,2)