May 14, 2011
For the fourth year in a row, the Tennessee Volunteers are back in the round of 16 of the NCAA Tennis Championships.
The third-ranked Vols punched their ticket to the final site of the NCAA Championships by blanking Virginia Tech 4-0 in a second-round match Saturday that started outside but finished in the Goodfriend Tennis Center because of rain.
The Vols (23-4) now travel to Palo Alto, Calif., to face 14th-seeded California on Thursday at noon Eastern. A live blog will be available at UTSports.com.
"I like our chemistry right now," senior Boris Conkic said. "We are getting better and better. I think this win against Virginia Tech is going to help out our confidence a lot. Once we get down there to California, I think we have a chance to play well."
If Saturday's performance is any indication, the Vols are on the right track heading into the final stages of the NCAA Championships. The team strung together one of their most complete performances of the season, winning the doubles point and taking the first set on all six courts.
Senior John-Patrick Smith started off his final home match in Tennessee uniform by writing his name once again in the record books. With his 8-2 victory with Boris Conkic on court 1, Smith became UT's career combines singles and doubles wins leader with 293, passing Byron Talbot's total of 292 wins from 1985-88.
Senior Matteo Fago and sophomore Edward Jones rallied from down 3-0 to beat Patrick Daciek and Kiku Aulina 8-5 and clinch the doubles point for the Vols. Fago and Jones, who were named to the NCAA All-Tournament Team last season, improved to 6-0 together in doubles.
In singles, the Vols quickly took first sets on four courts, headlined by sophomore Rhyne Williams 6-0 opening-set shutout on court 2. Rain started falling on the courts not long after Williams wrapped up his first set, and after a 45-minute weather delay, the match was moved indoors.
"The rain delay hurt us a little bit; it just slowed the momentum down," said head coach Sam Winterbotham, now 12-4 in NCAA matches with the Vols. "I thought we really had the momentum. The energy looked good on every court, and then you had to sit around and wait. You could see a few guys start off sluggish indoors. They just lost focus for a little bit."
Once inside, Jones was hardly phased by the change in venue. He was first off the court with a 6-4, 6-0 victory over Corrado Degl'Incerti Tocci on court 6. Williams followed not long after by beating Daciek 6-0, 6-2.
Sophomore Tennys Sandgren stepped in and sealed the victory on court 3. He was one of the last to finish his first set, but he flew through his second set to beat Will Beck 6-4, 6-3 to wrap up Tennessee's ninth shutout of the season.
Sandgren, Tennessee's most consistent performer in singles, improved to 21-1 on court 3 as a sophomore.
For Smith, Conkic and Fago, Sandgren's last point on Goodfriend's courts signaled the end of their playing days in Knoxville. Since the trio came to Tennessee four years ago, the Vols have gone 55-2 in dual matches, winning their last 35 in a row.
Their careers are certainly not over, more tennis is to be played. For Tennessee spectators without plane tickets to California, however, Saturday was the last chance to watch a group of Vols with nine All-SEC and soon-to-be five All-America honors between them.
"That last point that we finished, it really just hit me then," Smith said. "That's my last match here. It's going to be weird watching it from the stands, but that's how time goes."
Virginia Tech ended the season 15-12.
Tennessee 4, Virginia Tech 0
1. #11 John-Patrick Smith (UT) vs. #58 Luka Somen (VT) 6-4, 2-1, DNF
2. #3 Rhyne Williams (UT) def. Patrick Daciek (VT) 6-0, 6-2
3. #45 Tennys Sandgren (UT) def. Will Beck (VT) 6-4, 6-3
4. Boris Conkic (UT) vs. Pedro Graber (VT) 6-3, 4-4, DNF
5. #80 Matteo Fago (UT) vs. Lucas Oliveira (VT) 6-3, 2-6, 1-0, DNF
6. Edward Jones (UT) def. Corrado D. Tocci (VT) 6-4, 6-0
1. #1 Boris Conkic/John-Patrick Smith (UT) def. #68 Will Beck/Pedro Graber (VT) 8-2
2. #72 Tennys Sandgren/Rhyne Williams (UT) vs. Lucas Oliveira/Luka Somen (VT) 8-7, DNF
3. Matteo Fago/Edward Jones (UT) def. Patrick Daciek/Kiku Aulina (VT) 8-5
Order of finish: Doubles (1,3); Singles (6,2,3)